Bogra boasts hosting a major part of the country’s thriving sector of foundry and metal industry. The industry having an annual turnover of Tk. 400 crore has a bright history of three decades – during the period it rose from just melting cast iron into household utensils to manufacturing high-end products like centrifugal pumps to lathe machines to car parts.
The industry that employs two lakh people got a big boost after it came under media spotlight in recent months. Thanks to positive media coverage highlighting many of the genuine problems – be it regulatory issues or something related to sourcing raw materials or exports – helped the sector thrive in a much faster rate in last couple of years than it did in previous two decades, acknowledge the officials of Bangladesh Foundry Owners Association.
Following exposures in the media, the demand for agricultural equipment produced in the foundry industry of Bogra has increased and has by now captured a sizeable market also in abroad – beating the competitors both in quality and in costing.
In the past, the problems and prospects of this industry were not reflected in media due to the absence of workable and active relationship between media and the industrial entrepreneurs. Reporters could not write in depth reports on these subjects due to failure in identifying the issues and collecting relevant data.
Thanks to a Katalyst initiative implemented through a development organisation – Management and Resources Development Initiative (MRDI) that helped establish a working relationship between business organisations and journalists thereby, developing expertise of the people in mass media. Activities included holding roundtables with the participation of entrepreneurs and mass media workers, arranging field visits and organizing in-house programmes for journalists of local newspapers. For gaining real experience, arrangements for collecting field data with every programme were included with every programme. Afterwards, mass media people started reporting on business and commercial activities, which contributed towards the expansion of this industry, in particular, and commercial activities in Bogra, in general.
Bogra’s foundry and metal industry stands high today as a glaring example of how growth and infusion of skills in business journalism can push up the business as a whole. The media made the government reduce tax on agro-tools manufactured by the foundry and metal units from 15 to 7 per cent. Bangladesh Bank and Ministry of Industries have already started work on what else can be done to assist this sector. National Board of Revenue has taken the initiative to give the sector added facilities just like the Export Promotion Bureau.
MA Malek, Proprietor of Al Madina Metal Works and general secretary of Foundry Association of Bogra said that the demand for products manufactured by foundry industry of Bogra has increased following the publicity in media. Government initiatives to solve the problems of the sector have generated hopes among many.
He said the industry owners are now earning more by exporting pumps to India through legal channels following government initiatives.
Azizar Rahman Milton, Proprietor of Milton Engineering, informed that the export of centrifugal pumps has increased following publication of reports in the media. Speaking of a similar success story in business, Kamal Pasha, Proprietor of Haq Metal Industry said the nationwide demand for agricultural equipment manufactured at Bogra foundry units hiked after the publicity given by the media.
At present all kinds of spare parts, including parts of power tillers, tube wells, shallow engine pumps, liners, wheel, lathe machine, flattened rice machine, oil mill, flour mill, grinding machine are being made in Bogra.
Export of centrifugal pumps made in Bogra to India comes as a real big boost for the sector. Though there is demand, the producers of Bogra are now unable to produce more than 20 thousand centrifugal pumps a year, said Bangladesh Foundry Owners’ Association president Ainul Haq Sohel.
He also added that the centrifugal pump manufactured in Bogra costs only US$20 per unit in comparison to US$88 in India. Because of the wide price gap, there is widespread demand for Bogra’s pumps in India. If the government extends facilities, the light engineering goods manufactured here can easily gain entry into markets of India and China, hopes the concerned businessmen of this industry.
A preliminary survey by the Ministry of Industries said foundry and metal industries of Bogra meet 80 per cent of the country’s agricultural equipment needs. Of the 16 types of machineries manufactured here, the centrifugal pump is better than those manufactured in India and China. Ninety per cent of the country’s demand for centrifugal pumps is met from Bogra.
High quality slips of cars, brake drum, textile and jute mills spare parts, even spare parts of ships are now being manufactured here. Some of those are being exported too, after meeting the country’s demand. Garment spare parts are also being manufactured here for the last few years. Agricultural and industrial spare parts are being supplied countrywide, and also exported.
Ainul Haq Sohel said the foundry industry in Bogra faced crisis in the past due to inappropriate government policies leading to closure of some light engineering industries. When the crisis of the foundry industry was highlighted in the media, the policymakers became aware of the problems and prospects of the sector and compelled to do something.