Published at: The Independent, February 22, 2019
The export growth of furniture has increased by 25–30 per cent on a year-on-year basis thanks to rising local investment, affordable labour force, innovative design and quality, modern technologies, exploration of new markets, and opening of furniture showrooms in other countries. These factors have helped the country achieve a double digit growth for a couple of years in succession, say industry insiders.
According to the Export Promotion Bureau (EPB), the furniture sector received export earnings of USD 41.10 million in (July–January) in FY2018–19. This was up from the USD 31.77 million recorded for the same period in the previous financial year, thus showing a robust growth of 29.37 per cent.
Selim H Rahman, president of the Bangladesh Furniture Industries Owners’ Association (BFIOA) told The Independent that China used to ve the highest furniture-sourcing country in the world. “Now, it has shifted from labour-intensive to high-tech industries because their labour cost has gone up. This has opened up opportunities for Bangladesh in this sector,” he said.
Also, more and more brands are investing in the furniture sector to get a 15 per cent cash rebate, declared by the government, on the export of furniture. “So, it’s high time for us to invest more in this sector,” added Rahman.
When asked, the BFIOA president said that around 15–20 full-fledged factories are coming up in the furniture sector every year Rahman, who is also the managing director of Hatil Complex, said that Hatil has so far opened eight showrooms in India.
“Two more showrooms would be opened soon,” he added. He also said that Hatil’s export growth is 50 per cent each year. Bangladesh exports furniture to countries like those in the Middle East, India, Canada, Nepal, Bhutan, Malaysia, Belgium, the US and other European countries. The products have become famous because of their fine quality and innovative design, said Rahman.
Hatil Furniture exports products worth around USD 150,000 to Bhutan, the Middle East, Canada, and Nepal every month, he added.
Rahman said the domestic furniture market has been growing at a rate of 20-25 per cent a year. “The local furniture industry is growing fast because of the rising purchasing capacity of consumers. Researchers are trying to understand their needs, demand, and affordability,” he added.
New designs, modern technology and innovative products have jacked up the demand for furniture in the local market, he noted.
Replying to a question, Rahman said though there is no statistical data, the local market size would be approximately Tk. 3–3.5 thousand crore.
Describing the challenges faced by furniture exporters, Rahman said: “Raw materials are still being imported. We pay, on average, 55–60 per cent import duty on these materials.
This hikes the production cost of the final product. This increases the prices of the product.”
“We want the bond facility, which is provided to export-oriented industries for importing raw materials without paying any duty or tax. Availing the bonded warehouse facility is essential for export-oriented industries as it enhances their export and price competitiveness,” he added.