The famous handmade tiles of Kalaroa, which are exported abroad and sold at different places of the country, is struggling for survival. Kalaroa upazila is next to Sharsha upazila of Jashore district.
Local entrepreneurs said that Kalaroa’s potential Tiles industry is now on the verge of extinction due to Covid-19 pandemic. Thousands of workers of the industry have lost their jobs.
The entrepreneurs said that the main reason for the crisis is the lack of export policies and modernisation. However, if the cost of production increases, the price of Tiles items does not increase. The lack of loans on easy terms are also considered by the people concerned as one of the reasons for the crisis. However, only a handful of factory owners are still trying their best to keep the industry afloat.
In 2000, some Kumar families of Murarikati village at Kalaroa started producing these exported clay tiles. In 2004, Italian importer Rafaili Aldo first imported decorative tiles for housing from Murarikati of Kalaroa.
Notable among these tiles are Rickt Angular, Head Dragular, Scotting, Stamp, Square, Roop, Bricks and Floor Tiles.
As tiles began to be exported abroad, most of the Kumar community families in Murarikati village became financially self-sufficient. Later it is no longer confined to the hands of the Kumars.
About 90 percent of the households in Murarikati village are involved in the production of exported clay tiles. Employment is created for many women and men in the vicinity. At one stage, from 2004 to 2016, the exporters of Murarikati village in Kalaroa were booming in the tile industry. But in the last five years, at least 40 of the nearly 50 manufacturing plants were closed. At present there are 10 surviving factories are here.
These factories are Kalaroa Clay International, Badal Das Clay International, Bhai Bhai Tally Karkhana, Srikanth Tally, Abdus Chatter Tally, Neshar Ali Tally, Telesh Pal Tally, Abdur Rob Tally and Emadul Tally. The first exporter in this regard was Gostapado Pal of Murarikati village in Kalaroa.
The tiles industry become difficult to raise the production cost due to lack of demand abroad. It costs Tk 8 to 13 to produce a floor tile. Exporters are paying Tk 9 to 14 there. Each rickt angular tile is selling at Tk 7. But its production cost is Tk 7 to 8.
Head Dragular tile costs Tk 5. But it is being sold at the price of Tk 5. The production cost and selling price of design bricks is Tk 9 to 12.
As a result, most of the factories are facing losses due to rising prices of fuel and raw materials as well as rising labor cost. About 25 to 30 factories were closed one by one Since 2016.
An entrepreneur said that the reasons for the crisis in the industry are lack of marketing system, lack of modernisation in the tile industry and lack of export policy. He said that at present, at least 600 to 700 rural women and men workers have lost their jobs.
Former President of Jashore Chamber of Commerce and Industry Mizanur Rahman said that Tiles industry became very promising like shrimp export. Due to various crises, that promising industry is now struggling for survival. If the industry could survive, the government could earn foreign exchange just as the entrepreneurs would benefit, he added.
He requested the authorities concerned to take steps to keep this potential Tiles industry alive.