The countrywide transport strike disrupted the smooth functioning of the apparel supply chain in Bangladesh for the second straight day yesterday, hurting the recovery of the garment shipment.
Because of the strike, which began on Friday in protest of the hike in fuel prices, garment factory owners could not secure raw materials from the Chattogram port to their factories as trucks and covered vans were off the street.
Also, the goods-laden trucks and covered vans are not going to the port from the factories in Dhaka and adjacent Gazipur, Narayanganj, Manikganj and Narsingdi districts.
Exporters now fear that if the strike persists, it will take a toll on local and export businesses at a time when garment shipment from Bangladesh is surging.
Shahidullah Azim, vice-president of the Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association, says 65 ships are waiting at the outer anchorage of the port to unload mainly the raw materials for garment items.
But there are no trucks and covered vans to carry the goods to the factories.
"A two-day delay in the movement of goods from the port to the factories means a delay of shipment of goods of three to five days. Even export goods might have to be sent through the expensive air shipment."
A lot of local apparel manufacturers have imported raw materials in bulk quantity as the demand for locally made garment items has soared as the global economy is recovering.
Internally, fabrics and yarns are also not being transported for washing and dyeing.
"Actually, the supply chain has been disrupted by the strike," said Azim.
According to Mokbul Ahmed, president of the Bangladesh Covered Vans, Trucks, Prime Movers and Ponno Paribahan Malik Samity, none of the 3.5 lakh vehicles plied yesterday because of the strike.
"Our production planning has been disrupted due to the sudden strike as we can't move the raw materials from one place to another," said Mohammad Hatem, executive president of the Bangladesh Knitwear Manufacturers and Exporters Association.
He says almost all workers turned up as most of them live nearby. "Some were late due to the halt of the public transport movement."
Monsoor Ahmed, chief executive officer of the Bangladesh Textile Mills Association, said any prolonged transport strike would have a negative impact on the textile and apparel supply chain.
Over the last two days, many millers were not able to bring in cotton from the port to their factories, he said.
"The strike will hurt export earnings."
Delivery of imported goods at Chittagong port as well as container transport between the port and private inland container depots almost came to a halt on the day.
A few trucks and covered vans entered the port to take away the delivery of commodities such as rice and lentil and raw materials for cement and steel industries, said Chittagong Port Authority Secretary Md Omar Faruk.
But the delivery of the major portion of imported goods did not take place as vehicles were not available.
The loading and unloading of containers at the jetties took place. But the activity may slow down if the strike prolongs, according to Faruk.
"In such case, containers may pile up at the port."
The movement of import, export and empty containers between the port and 19 private ICDs was almost suspended.
Bangladesh Inland Container Depot Association Secretary Md Ruhul Amin Sikder said drivers and helpers of most of the private ICDs refrained from running vehicles.
Three Colombo-bound vessels scheduled to leave the port on Sunday morning may either have to postpone their departure or leave without any export items if the boxes full of goods can't be brought in at night.
Sikder said around 3,500 truck and covered vans carrying export-oriented goods from different parts of the country usually arrive at the 19 ICDs on a normal day, but their presence has dropped by 60 per cent.
Faruq feared if the export containers couldn't be delivered to the port, they might miss their scheduled shipment on Sunday.
The strike forced commodity processors and groups to rely on their own vehicles to supply goods.
Biswajit Saha, director for corporate and regulatory affairs of City Group, a major commodity processor in Bangladesh, said the supply chain had been affected because of the strike.
"We delivered goods using our own trucks."
In Benapole land port, the delivery of the imported goods did not take place.
The strike also impacted the turnout of workers as some labourers could not come to their factories on time because of the unavailability of public transports. What is more, they were forced to spend extra on transport fares in the last two days.
"Every worker has a monthly budget as transport fare. The strike has affected the transport budget," said Towhidur Rahman, president of the Bangladesh Apparel Workers Federation.
The unusual price hike of the petroleum products will push the prices of the basic commodities up, which will ultimately raise the cost of living for workers, he said.
Amirul Haque Amin, president of the National Garment Workers Federation, echoed Rahman.
"Workers are suffering on their ways to factories. They are spending at least one and a half hours on the roads compared to half an hour previously."
Mokbul said raising Tk 15 per litre of diesel and kerosene price was too high for transport owners and companies.
He held a meeting with Home Minister Asaduzzaman Khan Kamal in Dhaka yesterday to demand price reduction.
"We are waiting for a positive outcome of the meeting. I am hopeful that the government will listen to our demand and reduce the prices."