An influential syndicate has created obstacles to exporting wet blue leather, inflicting huge financial losses on the national economy.
Sources in the tannery industry said that the obstruction by the syndicate has frustrated a move to export a huge quantity of the half-processed leather to China.
The government on July 29 last year temporary withdrew the ban on exporting raw hide and wet blue leather to save the tanners and tannery industry from sustaining losses.
Following the withdrawal, local leather exporter ASK Investment on Sept 20 last year secured an order for exporting two million square feet of wet blue leather to China’s Zhejiang Wenzhou Ruiziangren Shoes Co Ltd.
According to documents obtained from the Ministry of Commerce, the price of the leather was fixed at Tk 1,060,000 US dollars [53 cent per SFT].
Sources said the proprietor of Ask Investment Abdus Salam Kochi on October 1 applied to the ministry seeking permission for the export.
In the documents, ASK Investment claimed that they would secure more export orders using their far eastern market connection. Several meetings were held at the ministry to discuss the matter.
Sources said the syndicate started hatching conspiracies as soon as they know the development only to ensure that the ministry does not give permission to the export efforts.
As the allegations run, the syndicate is even harassing the exporter so that he fails to execute the order even if he gets ministry permission.
The syndicate allegedly threatened the owner of a tannery at Tannery Industrial Estate (TIED) at Savar where one of the exporters stored his wet blue leather on rental basis, to force him to vacate the space.
The Bangladesh Post correspondent has obtained a phone record which suggests that a top leader of Bangladesh Tanners Association (BTA) forced the tanner to dislodge his tenant.
In the phone conversation, the tanner advised the exporter to talk to the influential leader of BTA, who is reportedly a godfather of the tannery syndicate.
At one stage, the BTA leader allegedly occupied the warehouse of the tannery, promoting the exporter to lodge a complaint with Savar police station.
Following the complaint, a sub-inspector of Hemayetpur Police camp visited the tannery in question and temporary sealed off the warehouse, an action which has gone in favour of the BTA leader.
The exporter said that following the intervention of a senior police officer, the tannery owner later handed over the warehouse to the exporter.
Earlier, sensing troubles, the exporter informed officials concerned of the Commerce Ministry about the obstruction the influential BTA leader created to the export move.
Bangladesh Post has obtained the phone record of the conversation between the officials of the Commerce Ministry and the exporter.
This correspondent talked to one of the officials, who wished not to be named as she is not authorised to talk to the media.
She said, “We’ve held several meetings and we are hopeful of settling the issue within January.”
The official said despite the withdrawal of the ban on export of raw hide and wet blue leather exports in July, no exports of the product have so far taken place.
She said, “We’ve so far received 5-6 applications seeking export permission. But we may give permission to 2-3 exporters after verification.”
Talking to the Bangladesh Post, BTA President Md Shaheen Ahamed said he is against the export of the leather “as it will be harmful for the tannery industry.”
The Commerce Ministry official said tanners and exporters have different interests, “but the government will take decision considering the interest of the country.”
Shadek Babu, Managing Director of the Bengal Pelli Export Co Ltd said he has around two lakh square feet of wet blue leather. “Almost every tannery factories have wet blue stocks.”
Responding to a question, he said, “If I sell the leather at the current price, I will lose around Tk 20 million.”
According to him, tanneries have around 20-40 million square feet of wet blue leather in stock at present.