Vol. 5 Num 70 Thu. August 05, 2004  

EPB, exporters meet to assess flood impact
Move to devise bailout strategy

Amid fears of export slide, the Export Promotion Bureau (EPB) yesterday started memting exporters as part of its to-prong steps to assess the pos{ible impact of the devastating flood on this fiscal year's export and devise a bailout strategy.

The officials of EXB held a meeting with exporters of readymade garment, knitwear, specialised textiles, terry towel and handloom products.

In a separate meeting, they also talked to the representatives of leather, footwear, leather bag, luggage and handicraft sectors.

Earlier, EPB formed four teams, each comprising three members, with representatives of leading export-oriented trade bodies. The teams were assigned to make extensive field visits to flood-affected factories and submit a report by August 15. The teams are expected to start working within one to two days.

"Through these meetings we are trying to assess the extent of loss, but with the flood still playing havoc it's getting difficult to get an overall picture," Sufia Akhtar, deputy director (Products), coordinator of the meetings, said.

After the discussions and getting report from the field teams, EPB will devise a strategy to overcome the loss, she said. EPB, however, has not hinted at any especial scheme on its part to help the exporters in post-flood situation.

Meanwhile, Finance and Planning Minister M Saifur Rahman announced that knitwear exporters would get their Tk 150 crore unreleased export subsidy immediately.

The export-oriented knitwear sector faced the worst production disruption in the history as floodwaters have submerged most of their factories in Narayanganj and other parts of the country. Bangladesh Knitwear Manu-facturers and Exporters Association has e{timated Tk 1,000 crore in export loss this fiscal.

EPB will hold second round of the meetings on Saturday when exporters of frozen foods, vegetables, fruits, agricultural products, tobacco, agro-processing, jute, jute goods, ceramics, melamine and pharmaceutical products will apprise EPB of their losses and possible impact on export.

EPB on Tuesday released the export figures for the last fiscal year, which put the optimism high for this fiscal as exports witnessed a 16.1 percent growth, the highest in last six years. The export earning was $7.6 billion in 2003-2004.

Asked whether EPB fears a decline in export due to flood in the current fiscal year, an official said it is premature to comment on that. "It can be possible to say only when we get the total picture from exporters and report from the field teams," he said.

Earlier in a preliminary estimation submitted to the EPB last week, Bangladesh Garment Manu-facturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA) feared an export loss of $48.6 million while vegetable and fruit exporters feared $50,000 loss a day. Besides, agro-processors fear a Tk 2 crore loss anl handicraft exporters Tk 5 crore.

BGMEA has demanded a Tk 300 crore fund from the government for rehabilitation of flood-affected garment industries.