Gaibandha Sweater Palli expanding against all odds

January 27, 2021 Business
For many years now, a community of weavers in Gaibandha has been producing over 20 types of warm clothing items without the modern technology, transportation or banking support.

About Tk 500 crore worth of warm clothes, including sweaters, mufflers, socks, caps and cardigans, are created in the area each year, according to local traders.

There remain 300 wholesale shops in the region that collectively sell about Tk 3-4 crore worth of the merchandise every day, they said.

Market named Kochashahar-Nawarhat Sweater Palli in Gaibandha's Gobindaganj upazila may be the focal point of this native industry, where at least 50,000 weavers from all around the district are involved.

Kochashahar Shilpanagari is situated 50 kilometres away from the district village of Gaibandha and 11 kilometres from the upazila community of Gobindaganj.

The epoch of how this little garment industry came to be begins with the story of just one man.

In 1930, Rahim Uddin of Pepulia village under Kochashahar union tried to escape acute poverty by going to Kolkata for work.

There, he worked in a socks factory for 13 years but after failing to adequately provide for his family group from abroad, Uddin returned home with two handlooms.

Because of his experience in Kolkata, Uddin was then able to begin producing socks found in his village. His success later encouraged other locals to provide handlooms from Pakistan to make both socks and mufflers.

Since then, the business has continued to spread to the adjacent villages.

Following the Independence War in 1972, the federal government started importing some old cotton warm clothes and the Kochashahar Shilpa Palli was established, said Mizanur Rahman, president of the Nawarhat Hosiery Owners Samity. 

In 1990, native traders imported some handlooms from India to weave sweaters.  Since then the sweater industries in Kochashahar region started flourishing and expanded to over 20 adjacent villages under the Gobindaganj upazila.

However, the weavers struggled to control raw materials until 1995, when some other weavers from Bogura's Adamdighi upazila determined rejected yarns in Dhaka's Narayanganj. In addition they brought some modern vitality looms from Dhaka to the Shaul Bazar and Kochashahar spot.

However, local weavers of Bogura's Shaul Bazar then started out creating yarn from the rejected garments and created market worth Tk 200 crore annually. Now, the Kochashahar weavers and traders purchase their yarns from the Shaul bazar.

By 2005, the industry got expanded to over 40 villages under Gobindaganj and Bogura's Sonatala and Shibganj upazila, which caused the income to visit a sharp fall because of overproduction.

Therefore, various businessmen left the trade.

But since 2010, they started making money again by including some modern electricity looms and top quality designs, Rahman said.

During a recent go to to the region last December, this kind of reporter discovered that weavers from nearly every village under the Kochashahar union had been busy generating warm clothes.

Rahman said there are nearly 3,000 families which have their own handlooms.

There are 50,000 persons in the market and among them, 60 % are women, he added.

Md Amir Sheikh, owner of Aziz Garments, a wholesaler of warm clothes found in Keraniganj, told The Daily Star that around 60-70 traders from Dhaka, Keraniganj, Narayanganj go to the Kochashahar's Nawarhat bazar to buy clothes worth Tk 3-7 lakh each year.

"Traders from Dhaka used to visit the remote Kochashahar village industry as the cost of warm clothes there is cheaper than in Dhaka," Sheikh said.

Asaduzzaman Mojnu, owner of Kashmiri Fashion in Nawarhat bazar, said he produces 50,000 to 80,000 sweaters yearly worth around Tk 2.4 crore.

Anisur Rahman, another localized warm clothes maker of the Kochashahar Sweater Palli, produces around 50,000 to 60,000 particular warm blouses worth Tk 87 lakh each year.

"But because of the short winter this season, I have to offer this blouse within the next year at lower prices," Rahman said.

Among the 50,000 workers, some generate yarn from bobbins while others sew clothes, do embroidery, piping, attach buttons or packaging.

Ayesha Khatun, who gets results for the Nazim-Nirab Hosiery, mainly will piping and buttoning.

"After finishing my homestead do the job, I earn Tk 4,000-5,000 each month," she said.

Amid too little banking assist, the SME foundation chose Kochashahar Shilpa Nagari as a cluster and started distrusting loans from a Tk 5 crore fund since 2018.

However, many small sector owners alleged they are certainly not getting such loans.

Included in this, Akramul Hossain, owner of the Bishal Hosiery, explained there are 10-13 weavers employed in his socks factory.

"I tried twice to receive loan from the SME Basis but it denied presenting loan to a tiny trader like me," he added.

Asked, Abu Monjur Saif, assistant general supervisor for cluster development of the SME Basis, informed The Daily Star that the dealers who will be bankable are getting loans.

"We have a connection with the local Brac Bank to distribute loans for the Kochashahar cluster," he said.

When contacted, Nurul Islam Parvez, officer of the Brac Bank's branch in Gobindaganj, said they distributed loans to 60 manufactures worth around Tk 3.5 crore in the Kochashahar area this past year.

Nawarhat Hosiery Owners Samity President Rahman continued to say that although there are huge sales each day during winter, there are very little banks in the region to take care of the large transfers.

When contacted, Ramkrishana Barman, upazila nirbahi officer of Gobindaganj, said "We know about the issues. The weavers of the Kochashahar spot are making warm clothes worth over Tk 500-600 crore annually and the government also is getting very good revenue from their website."

But the area lacks good transport facilities and secure mobile network, he stated.

"I have previously contacted and urged the mobile operators to determine a strong network here. I have as well urged some bank authorities to create new branches here."

"We also sent an idea to the department concerned to obtain 3 acres of land to create a   training centre for the artisan and weavers," Barman added.
Source: Thedaily Star

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