Monthly Archives: June 2008

Showcasing light industrial products

Showcasing light industrial products

EVERY modern nation chooses its path to industrialisation, basing on its specific conditions. The recent history of the East and Southeast Asia provides ample proof for this. But such uniqueness apart, what those nations that have undergone the phase of industrialisation has one feature in common. That is, they develop light industrial base first, on which the heavy industries stand. In fact, there is no shortcut to this tested growth path of the industry. As an aspirant to the status of an industrialised nation, Bangladesh must, therefore, choose its own path. But to all appearances, it has not purposefully chosen one. As a result, the actual actors that could expedite this process did not get the necessary patronage they deserved due to lack of attention from the government. So, the entrepreneurs in this sector had to make do with whatever they found it handy. Unsurprisingly, they made the most of the obsolete and old technology they found in their surroundings.

Left to their own devices, the local entrepreneurs in the light engineering sub-sector, meanwhile, has grown to be an emerging force in the economy. According to the Bangladesh Engineering Industries Owners Association (BEIOA), in the fiscal 2006-07, this sub-sector exported light engineering products to the tune of US$310 million. Similarly, in the next fiscal, it has a target of exporting products worth US$ 500 million. But it is not just due to its capacity for growth and export potential that this particular segment of the industry, which is worth Tk.200 billion with its 40, 000 units spread all across the country, should be treated with respect. These self-developed industrial units are producing and supplying valuable spare parts for a wide swathe of the industry from textiles, jute, tea, food processing, construction, furniture industry to the agriculture. It is also producing whole power-tillers as well as their spare parts, irrigation pumps, automobile components and spares for marine engines. Add to this long list also bicycle, spares for shallow pumps, carbon rod for dry-cell batteries, pistons, you name it. Or in other words, the contribution of this self-grown light industrial sub-sector to all other sectors of the industry and the economy is immense, to say the least.

The BEIOA leaders have recently made a move to set up an industrial park, where they will display their products as well as develop infrastructures for providing training, holding workshops, conferences, etc. For the purpose, they have selected a site in Naryanganj, where some 200 display centres would be built on about 50 acres of land. Now what the light industrial sub-sector wants is not simply appreciation. They need patronage and so some work has to be done considering the largest untapped prospect of employment creation, high value addition to the products the light engineering units produce and the hard currency they are poised to add to the economy.

The case for the light engineering sub-sector, which is but part of the Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs), should not be looked upon as just one of the so many other claimants to government largesse. In fact, the light engineering sub-sector is the key to the development of heavy industry. And in that sense, it has not, so far, claimed its due share from the government in marked contrast to many others. The leaders of the BEIOA, who reportedly have already convinced the SME Foundation of their project, are planning to put across their case to the Commerce Adviser. After getting the necessary government nod of approval as well as support, they may then go ahead with their light industrial park project. Setting up of an industrial park is but one of the ways to showcase the potential of an industry before the wider audience. All concerned would, therefore, like to share the hope that the effort would also open up another avenue for foreign investment in the economy.


Maize farming on Teesta shoals brings joy to monga-hit people

Maize farming on Teesta shoals brings joy to monga-hit people in Nilphamari, Lalmonirhat

37,000 hectares to produce 2, 60,000 tonnes this year
Our correspondent, Nilphamari

Once quiet and lifeless Teesta shoals are now buzzing with activities.

Introduction of maize cultivation by Agriculture Extension Department (AED) under its crop diversification programme ahs changed the socio-economic scenario on several thousand hectares of land on Teesta shoals in Nilphamari and Lalmonirhat districts.

Five years ago, AED tested the soil in shoal areas that had been left barren and unproductive for decades and found the soil suitable for this crop.

Next, year maize was cultivated on an experimental basis which achieved an unexpected success. From then maize is being cultivated there and increasing tremendously.

Last year, maize was cultivated on about 23,270 hectares of land in Nilphamari and Lalmonirhat districts. But this year maize was cultivated on 37,000 hectares of land to produce 2,59,000 tonnes of maize.

Now thousands of landless farmers in Teesta shoals including Char Kharibari, Purbo Kharibari, Fakrater Char, Vendabari, Jharsingheswar, Gopaljhaar, Bhasanir Char, Tapur Char Baishpukur and others areas of Nilphamari district.

The Teesta shoals in Lalmonirhat district where maize is being cultivated are Saniajan, Bhotmari, kishorganj Char, Dauabari Char, Holdibari Char, Dhubuni Char, Sindurnar Char, Guddimari Char and others.

People are vibrant with hopes that monga (a pre-harvest lean period between September and late November when there is no farm work) will not affect them this year. The maize cultivation has created job opportunity for a number of unemployed people in the region.

“We are hopeful that we can go a long way to combat monga with maize cultivation,” said Eunus Ali, the deputy director of AED, Nilphamari.

Sandy and sand-alluvial soil in the Teesta shoals is very suitable for maize cultivation, he said, adding that several thousand women and men have been provided short training under AED’s North West Crops Diversification Project (NCDP) to cultivate maize and other crops.

AED sources said the Asian Development Bank (ADB) provided fund for giving loans to farmers in Rajshahi region under NCDP’s Rajshahi Division zone. A few NGOs are cooperating in this project while some commercial banks are providing soft loans to poor farmers in the shoals of Teesta.

AED block supervisors of and some NGO workers are providing technical support.

The shoal lands where silt is deposited during yearly floods, are suitable for maize cultivation, Lalmonirhat AED Deputy Director Md Abtabuddin said. However, it is very difficult to grow other crops in the sandy and barren shoals, he added.

Farmer Motaleb of Char Purbo Kharibari said about 500 acres of land in his shoal was covered with to 2-3 feet layer of sand due to flooding of the area after a Water Development Board embankment burst in 2000.

One thousand families became virtually beggars and there was none to buy the sand-covered lands even at Tk 200 per decimal, he said.

Motaleb got a new life when maize cultivation began in this shoal last year.

“This sandy land is my asset,” he said.

“I cultivated hybrid maize on two acres of land and got 140 maunds worth Tk 56,000. Presently a maund (around 40 kg) of maize is selling at an average rate of Tk 400. But last year it was Tk 500. Despite the lower price, maize brought us profit as production is higher,” Farmer Hatem Ali of Char Saniajan said.

Maize farmers Yunus Ali, Abul Hasem, Zulhas, Wasuddin and other farmers of the char areas also echoed the same.

Abdul Latif, chairman of Purbo Chhanai union in Dimla upazila, an area worst affected by monga said maize has changed the socio-economic condition of his area.

“People who would queue for relief in front of the union parishad office earlier are not seen now,” he said.

Square joins hands with PC Pharma in Sri Lanka

Square joins hands with PC Pharma in Sri Lanka
Business Desk

The Square Pharmaceuticals Ltd has recently gone into a strategic partnership with PC Pharma of Sri Lanka, a subsidiary of PCH Holding, a corporate group having an integrated chain of well diversified businesses in Sri Lanka.

Under the strategic partnership, PC Pharma, which is the first of its kind in attaining the ISO 9001-2000 certification for pharmaceutical importation in Sri Lanka, would market a large range of Square’s products, said a press release.

Apart from the regularly demanded pharmaceutical products, this partnership would also see the launch of molecules in such therapeutic categories as antidiabetic, neuropsychiatry, antibiotics, cardiac, respiratory, dermatology and ear and eye preparations coupled with forming a partnership with Square Cephalosporins Ltd, enabling to serve with the latest generations of cephalosporin products including injectables for the Sri Lankan market.

Govt mulls NRBs’ offer to set up pharma research centre

Govt mulls NRBs’ offer to set up pharma research centre

Kazi Azizul Islam

The government is considering a proposal, of some non-resident Bangladeshis in Australia, for setting up a pharmaceutical research centre in the country. Sources in the Board of Investment, which is working on the proposal, told New Age the government high-ups responded positively to the proposal feeling the necessity of such a centre to support growth of the pharmaceutical companies as well as their export mission.

According to the BoI officials, a group of NRB investors proposed raising funds from Australia for setting up of the multimillion dollar centre which required sophisticated equipment.

The BoI officials told New Age that Dr. Zahir Khan, an NRB and a renowned pharmaceutical expert Australia in, forwarded the proposal to the BoI through the Bangladesh embassy in Canberra.

The BoI is discussing the proposal with the representatives of pharmaceutical entrepreneurs, officials of the Export Promotion Bureau and other stakeholders.

‘We are considering the venture as potential for the growth of increasing number of drug exporters in Bangladesh,’ a senior official of the EPB said.

As the proposal came from private sector and people having experiences in the developed counties, the official said, the venture is expected to gain success.

The BoI was apprised that several hundred Bangladeshi pharmacists, microbiologists and other pharmaceutical professionals were working in the EU, US and Australian private and public organisations.

‘The venture can help the local companies in promoting drugs for both local and overseas markets,’ said one BoI official.

Local exporters are preparing to capture the EU and US drug markets as Bangladesh, being advanced among other LDCs, has potential to utilise the easy market access with its cost-effective products.

According to a WTO agreement, the LDCs do not have to implement any kind of intellectual property rights at least before 2016 for medicines and drugs.

Around 30 Bangladeshi drugs producers have so far explored markets in more than 50 countries including Africa, Latin America and Asia.

According to the EPB sources, export figure will surely reach $40 million with a growth of 50 per cent in the current fiscal.

But, the industry insiders said the current amount is almost nothing compared to the industry’s capacity and potential in the global market.

They claimed that with already increased production capacity for 20 billion pieces of tablets, only for export, local drug makers can immediately feed a market for $2 billion.

Mittal seeks one more year to renew investment proposals

Mittal seeks one more year to renew investment proposals


The UK-based Mittal group has sought the government’s permission to renew its $2.9 billion investment proposals for a further one year period, said a senior official Thursday.

He said the UK based group sought permission of the government as its Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) signed last year with the Board of Investment (BoI) is expiring this month.

The UK-based group signed the MoU in June last year proposing to invest about $2.9 billion in coal mine development, oil exploration and production, power plant, petrochemicals, NGL/LNG production and other infrastructure projects in Bangladesh.

Md Nazrul Islam, the then executive chairman of the BoI, and Vinod K Mittal, managing director of the Global Oil and Energy Ltd, a subsidiary of Mittal Group, signed the MoU on behalf of the respective sides in the city.

Of the total investment plan, an estimated $300 million will be spent for coal mine development, $100 million for oil exploration and production, $500 million for power plant, $1.50 billion for petrochemicals, and $500 million for NGL/LNG production and other infrastructure projects.

In line with the MoU, the BoI official said the UK group was supposed to complete its feasibility studies on investment proposals, form a company here and other related works by last one year.

“The executive committee of the BoI is positively considering to renew the tenure of the MoU for a further one year,” he said.

BoI officials like many potential global investors the Mittal’s subsidiary is also taking time to see the developments in Bangladesh’s politics in implementing its investment proposals.

Briefing the newsmen after signing the MoU, the then BoI executive chairman said the investment offer of the company is not complicated like that one of Tata.

After the Indian industrial giant Tata’ $ 3 billion investment offer, this is the second largest investment offer from an UK-based, another Indian giant.

The Mittal Group is one of the largest business conglomerates in India and the United Kingdom (UK) with $ 28 billion investment in 27 countries of Europe, Asia, Africa and America.

An official said the company first intimated the BoI April 18 to invest 1.6 billion through an expression of interest (EoI) but it revised the proposal twice to $ 2.9 billion.

Lt Col (Retd) Kamal Ahmad, chief executive officer of GRH Bangladesh Ltd and also local agent of the company, said: “Though Mittal is signing the initial MoU for investment worth $2.8 billion, the company’s ultimate investment will be over $5.0 billion in the country in the long run.”

The GSHL, based in UAE, manages steel plants with annual production capacity of 14 million tonnes in many countries across Europe, Africa and the Asia Pacific, besides India.

Use of biogas gains ground in Lalmonirhat rural areas

Use of biogas gains ground in Lalmonirhat rural areas
S Dilip Roy . Lalmonirhat

Low-cost biogas, an alternative fuel for cooking, is increasingly getting popular among the people in different rural areas of Lalmonirhat. Biogas is not only used as fuel for cooking foods it is also being used for producing electricity.

The people, who never thought of having electricity in their remote areas, are now using electric bulbs, operating radio and television thanks to biogas plants. Currently, more than 250 rural families in the district are using biogas instead of firewood to cook foods and to electrify their houses, local sources said.

The number of biogas users continues to increase in the district as they find this alternative fuel much cheaper than firewood, they said. Some 280 biogas plants have so far been installed in rural areas of the district since 1997, according to official sources concerned. One biogas plant is enough to meet the fuel and power demand of a five-to-six member family, they added.

Ebarot Ali, 42, of village Hazigonj under Aditmari upazila of the district said ‘I have been using biogas for the last four years as it is cheaper than firewood.’

‘I can save Tk 12,000 annually. Biogas is not only serving our cooking purpose, we are getting electricity produced in the biogas plant. ‘We can now eletrify our house, operate fan, radio and even television by the electricity produced in the biogas plant.’

Hemat Uddin of village Bongram in district sadar upazila, said, ‘Use of biogas has changed the lifestyle of my family.’ ‘Ours is a remote village. We never thought of having electricity in our village. But biogas has made things happen.’

Ruhul, 10, a Class-IV student, son of one Manir Uddin at village Char Gokunda in sadar upazila said they took biogas facility last year. ‘I and my sister Rahima, a Class-VI student, can now read in electric light because of biogas.’

Biogas is produced by anaerobic fermentation of decomposed materials including cow dung, human excreta, poultry wastes and garbage. All the biogas plants have been installed in the district on the basis of cow dung. Seven to eight cows are required for preparing a biogas plant.

A family of five to six members can easily cook their foods and electrify their houses from one plant. The Institute of Fuel Research and Development under the Bangladesh Council for Scientific and Industrial Research introduced biogas plants in Lalmonirhat in 1997 under a pilot project.

Different non-government organisations, including the BRAC are providing biogas plant to the people in remote areas of the district on payment in instalments.

Sources at Lalmonirhat BRAC office said the cost of installing a biogas plant with daily capacity of 100cft gas is Tk. 16,000, while Tk 23,000 for 200cft capacity, Tk 30,000 for 300cft capacity, Tk 41,000 for 400cft, Tk  48,000 for 500cft and Tk 75,500 for 1,000cft capacity.

One plant having 100cft capacity is enough to meet the fuel demand of a 7-10 member family, BRAC sources added. According to sources in Lalmonirhat Forest Department only 25 per cent of the country’s total population can be brought under biogas facility.

Korea to invest $45m in Karnaphuli EPZ

Korea to invest $45m in Karnaphuli EPZ

DHAKA, Bangladesh, June 26 (BSS)- M/s Pungkook Chittagong (Pvt) Co Ltd, a Korean company, will set up a bags, packs and luggage manufacturing industry in the Karnaphuli Export Processing Zone.

This hundred percent foreign owned company will invest initially about Taka 315 crore in setting up their plant and will produce annually 8 million pcs of all kinds of bags and carrying cases, said a BEPZA press release here today.

The company will also create employment opportunity for 2,000 people, including four foreign nationals.

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