Although the modern footwear industry in Bangladesh started in the 1980s, it was during the British colonial rule that the footwear industry spread in the region. And in the 1990s, Bangladesh started exporting footwear. The footwear factories in East Bengal during the British rule were small. Some of these factories were set up in several district towns. Calcutta was once very prosperous in the footwear industry and until 1947, Calcutta was the main source of import of footwear for the people of East Bengal.
After 1947, footwear was imported from West Pakistan. Bata Shoe Company established a shoe factory in Tongi in 1962 and was the first large scale footwear manufacturer in Bangladesh. Then in 1967 Eastern Progressive Shoe Industries was established. What the two companies produced together greatly increased supply in the local market, as well as exporting to many countries, including the Soviet Union, Czechoslovakia and England. During the war of independence of Bangladesh, two factories were severely damaged. However, after independence, they were re-established and many new footwear factories were set up.
At present there are more than two thousand footwear factories in Bangladesh. Of these, only 23 conduct production using fairly large-scale and mechanical technology. Others have been identified as small and medium.
At present, leather goods footwear has emerged as a potential export sector after readymade garments. The product has been experiencing steady growth in exports for several years. But the continuity has been cut in the last one year. Before Corona, both production and export of the product were on the decline, but Corona came and reduced it further. In one year, shoe exports have declined by about 14 percent. At the same time, Bangladesh’s share in global production has come down from 1.9 percent to 1.7 percent. As a result, Bangladesh has dropped from sixth to eighth position in the list of top 10 producing countries.
Mr. Mohiuddin Ahmed Mahin, chairman of the Bangladesh Finished Leather, Leather goods and Footwear Exporters Association, said the global market has shrunk by about USD 200 billion. The impact of the Corona may last another year. But Bangladesh will be able to turn around. The Chinese market, which accounts for more than half of the world’s footwear market, is shrinking. There is an opportunity for Bangladesh to move forward with relatively low production costs. Entrepreneurs in this sector have that skill. All that is needed is policy support. Most of the big factories are not able to use their full production capacity. If the ETP is resolved, it is possible to increase exports to all markets, including the United States and Europe. In addition, if the commercial wings of our foreign missions play a role in increasing trade, exports can be further increased. -Editor