Stitchwell Designs looking to restart production
The management of Stitchwell Designs Ltd, an export-oriented garment factory, yesterday claimed that it had to stop production in 2020 after international buyers took exception to the odour of naphthalene in shirts exported by the company.
In a press conference held on the now-shuttered factory floor in Dhaka's Tejgaon locality, Md Iqbal Hossain, managing director of Stitchwell Designs Ltd, said the objectionable odour originated from the adjacent factory, which produces naphthalene and tar and is separated by a single wall.
Replying to queries, Hossain said that he had cleared dues of Tk 13 crore to workers in March 2020 before shutting up shop.
He added that he had lost all work orders from buyers, including the likes of Zara, Mango, LIDL, Carrefour, Walmart, Kmart and PDS due to the issue.
One of his buyers from the US claimed compensation amounting to $2.34 million and burnt his shipment in San Francisco after smelling naphthalene on the goods, Hossain said.
He said he had started the business on the premises in 1992, adding that buyers first began complaining about the foul smell in 2015, around the same time nearby Nazrul and Brothers started production of naphthalene.
He added that he had a lot of work orders from his buyers now and wanted to re-start production in the Tejgaon premises, where his 1,00,000 square feet factory has been lying idle for the past three years.
Currently, he is operating another factory in Tongi, which ships garment items worth more than $30 million a year.
Before closing down the factory in Tejgaon, he used to ship mainly woven shirts and trousers worth $20 million. He employed 2,500 workers, but the number fell to 1,500 in the final days of production as work orders dwindled following the complaints.
Hossain said he had sat with Nazrul Islam, chairman of Nazrul and Brothers, several times but those negotiations did not amount to anything.
Both parties are now awaiting a court verdict.
When contacted, Nazrul Islam told The Daily Star that he had been operating his factory in the same place since 1980 while following environmental and other regulations.
He said that he had not been receiving clearance certificates from the Department of Environment for the past three years after Hossain lodged a complaint to the government department.
Islam added that he had already built a new factory at Kanchpur in Narayanganj and is now awaiting the gas connection at the new factory before he relocates.
He said he was moving because the premises in Tejgaon was small and built nearly 44 years ago.