Everything has good and bad aspects. From that point of view, the Coronavirus which has grown pandemic is not different from other things. The highly transmissible virus has brought about changes to the forms or natures of all trades and commerce across the world.
Since the virus emerged in late 2019, demand for PPEs (Personal Protective Equipment) including face masks has gone up on large scale leading to a rise in production of the medical apparatus.
As the pandemic is expected to stay longer, suppliers in the Bangladesh readymade garment (RMG) industry now see a new prospect in PPEs, especially masks and gown. Public health experts recommend mask-wearing as a protective measure to prevent the spread of the deadly virus.
Many apparel manufacturers are now exporting face masks in bulk. But demand for gown from buyers has not seen an improvement.
Moreover, one of the bad effects of the Coronavirus on business is that many people have reduced their demands for some goods due to fall in income.
Industry insiders say that encouraged by higher demand for PPEs at home and abroad, many entrepreneurs are now making investment on mask-production, and added that the export amount of domestically produced PPEs will increase in the days to come. “New investment is also coming.”
Sources at the Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters’ Association (BGMEA) said the export amount of masks increased by 883 percent to USD 2.69 crore between March and July this year from USD 27 lakh in the same period of last year.
According to the BGMEA’s data, in June this year, the number of masks in total exported to different countries stood at 1.9 crore which reached 1.24 crore in July recording 1117 percent uptick in export compared to the same period in 2019.
However, the umbrella organization of RMG factories’ owners could not provide any data with regards to gown-export.
BGMEA Vice-President MD Mashiul Azam said masks are being exported in bulk despite no progress in receiving export-orders placed by foreign buyers.
Beximco Group is a glaring example in this regard as the apparel exporting company has so far manufactured and exported more PPEs compared to its local competitors.
Sources in the company said US brand Heinz sourced 65 lakh pieces of gown for Federal Emergency Management Agency from Beximco Group which is also selling PPEs in domestic market alongside export.
Beximco Group is setting up on 20 acres of land a world-class PPE Park capable to producing 1.5 crore pieces of protective equipment per month and the company, on the basis of good response made by the foreign buyers, expect to earn USD 25 crore this year and USD 50 crore next years exporting PPEs.
With sight on export, one of the leading local brands Urmi Group imported USD 5 lakh worth machinery to make PPEs. The company already received certificate from US-based Food and Drug Administration in order to export to the country.
Asif Ashraf, Managing Director of the company, said they exported 10 lakh pieces of face-mask to the US and France, adding that his company is also in discussion with foreign buyers over exporting gown. In the domestic market there is good demand for the antiviral mask produced by our company, said Asif.
In Adamjee EPZ in Narayanganj, PRAN-RFL Group will make USD 1.8 crore investment to establish a factory having capacity to produce 85 metric tones PPEs per year and to create employment for 1900 people.
The company will focus on making masks of surgical, KN95, N95 categories, surgical hand gloves, shoe-cover, gown, hand-sanitizer and will target to grab markets in the EU and US.
According to India and US-based market analysis and consulting company Grand View Research, Inc, in 2019 the value of global PPE market was USD 5900 crore which is expected to rise to USD 8400 crore in 2027.
However, there is still confusion over how much share in the global PPE market Bangladeshi apparel exporters would be able to grab.