Local plastic goods makers are no longer concentrating on household items only; rather, they have brought innovations to almost every area where plastic can be used.
They are now producing PVC products such as pipes, fittings and foundry items, along
with pure plastic products - kitchen utilities, furniture, food containers and storage items - to cater to the local and international markets.
Bangladeshi plastic exports rake in around Tk 2,700 crore - Tk 700 crore in direct form and Tk 2,000 crore via indirect exports - according to Bangladesh Plastic Goods Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BPGMEA).
On the domestic front, the annual sales of plastic products are estimated at about Tk 15,000 crore in a sector that grew 20 percent a year over the last several years.
"The plastic industry has grown enough to be able to handle the growing demands of both local and foreign markets, said Md Jashim Uddin, the president of the association.
Though the sector started small in the 1960s, it has now reached a self-sufficient stage, he said.
For instance, local industry giants - Bengal Group, RFL, Partex, Talukder Group, Luna, Saj, Sunflower and Hamko Group - have significantly enhanced their production capacities.
"We are bringing innovations and adding newer products to the baskets regularly, said
Jashim Uddin, also the vice-chairman of Bengal Group of Industries.
The sector has witnessed huge product diversification over the last several years due to people's changing lifestyles.
"Product diversification has increased to cater to the changing consumer tastes, said Kamruzzaman Kamal, marketing director of Pran-RFL Group.
"People want innovative and durable products - but at a competitive price. And plastic goods have these attributes, Kamal said.
RFL, which has a product portfolio of around 1,500 items, makes both pure plastic and
semi-plastic products at its six factories, which have a monthly production capacity of 4,500 tonnes.
"We are now making all types of plastic products. It includes kitchen items, furniture, medical equipments and PVC products, said the RFL high official.
Plastic goods are a necessity and provide more value for money to the customers, further said Kamal.
"We have also brought lots of innovation to the sector, said Rubel Aziz, managing director of Partex Plastics Ltd, which produces over 300 plastic products.
"We are the first company to introduce plastic flower vases and airtight containers to the local market, said Aziz.
Around 1.2 million workforces are now directly and indirectly employed in around
5,000 small, medium and large plastic goods manufacturing units.
The value addition of the plastic products is hovering around 51 to 70 percent, according to data from the industry lobbying group.
Bangladesh has the opportunity to become a global player in plastic market, said a UN report last year, by raising its turnover to $2 billion by 2015 and $4 billion by 2020.
Earnings from plastic exports stood at $88.69 million in fiscal 2011-2012, up 29 percent from the previous fiscal year, according to Export Promotion Bureau data.
Source: "The Daily Star", Dhaka; 23 Jan 2013
(Syed Rashid Ali, Karachi, Pakistan)