The PRAN-RFL company has started producing non-leather footwear for global brands like H&M while its export of the item grew over 50 per cent to USD 7.2 million in 2022-23.
RFL began exporting non-leather footwear products in 2021 and now it produces non-leather goods for different international brands, including Kappa, REDTAPE, Umbro and PEPCO.
The company exported non-leather footwear products worth about USD 4.7 million in FY 2021-22 and USD 7.2 million in FY 2022-23. It now expects to fetch USD 15 million this fiscal year through exports.
Md Rahat Hossain Roni, chief operating officer of RFL Footwear, said this while explaining the production of the non-leather goods at its factory in Danga Industrial Park in Narsingdi.
RFL has invested so far Tk 1.38 billion in this sector and has created employment for around 2,500 people, he added.
Chairman and CEO of PRAN-RFL Group Ahsan Khan Chowdhury highlighted the need for diversifying the export basket as about 80 per cent of the country's export earnings come from the garment sector.
Footwear accounts for 3 per cent of the country's export earnings. RFL footwear products are currently being exported to 37 countries across the world.
He pointed out some challenges to the export growth, adding that skilled manpower and cost management remain the major challenges while competing with China, the leader in the global market.
Bangladesh is the 16th footwear export country in the world and most of the raw materials used in RFL's non-leather footwear are being imported from China.
He, however, said his company is planning to set up footwear and other factories in the northern region due to workers' availability.
"Migration for employment purposes separates workers from their families. Therefore, we will set up industries in the northern region to facilitate employment there," he added.
"However, we are also struggling to get workers for our factories in Dhaka and surrounding areas," he continued.
To facilitate the sector further, investors need government support like bonded warehouses, skilled manpower and other facilities for smooth operation, he added.
There is a huge potential for non-leather footwear exports from Bangladesh. These products include sneakers, molded polyurethane, sandal, flip-flop, boot and canvas or rubber shoes.
Bangladesh's main export markets are EU countries such as Germany, France, Spain, Netherlands and Italy.
In fiscal year 2022-23, leather footwear exports from Bangladesh stood at approximately USD 700 million and non-leather footwear at approximately USD 480 million.
The local market size is around Tk 16 billion and the local producers meet about 90 per cent of the domestic demand.
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