The printing industry in Bangladesh is facing a serious setback during the peak time of Ekushey Book Fair as the prices of production materials and chemicals have gone up following a supply crunch due to the coronavirus outbreak in China.
Talking to UNB, publishers said Bangladesh largely depends on China for importing most printing materials, but the export of these items remains suspended in the wake of the prevalence of deadly coronavirus that led to the unusual hike in their prices.
They said the production cost of every book has increased by 20-30 percent as the prices imported papers, printing colours, plates, plastics and most chemicals have almost doubled.
Vice president of Bangladesh Gyan and Srijonshil Prokashak Samiti (BGSPS) Mohammad Gafur Hossain said the production cost of books during the country’s biggest book fair have increased due to the hike in printing materials since China has shut down its market.
Passengers wear masks to prevent an outbreak of a new coronavirus in a subway station, in Hong Kong. Photo: AP
He said they are now buying each printing plate at Tk 350 against its previous price of Tk 200. “Now, we’ve to purchase printing colour at Tk 250-300 which was earlier Tk 180-200. The prices of most of the imported printing materials and chemicals have shot up significantly due to their shortage in the market.”
Gafur, also the owner of Rhythm Prakashan Sangstha, said they are currently publishing at least 30 different types of new books targeting the book fair. “We’ve to spend additional Tk 2,000-3,000 for each title just because of increased prices of the printing materials.”
He said the government needs to explore suitable alternative markets to import the printing materials as it is uncertain when China will reopen its market.
Monirul Hoque, owner of Ananya Prokashoni, one of the biggest publication houses in Bangladesh, said they are in trouble at this peak season as the prices of many printing materials and chemicals have doubled due to the outbreak of coronavirus in China.
As the import from China remain halted, he said they are struggling to get printing plate, colour, plastic and polythene paper and various chemicals.
Monir said those who are now printing books for the Ekushey Book Fair will not be able to make profit due to the raise in the production cost.
“The Book Fair won’t be affected due to the crisis of printing materials, but the publishers will be hit hard as their profit margins will drastically fall,” he added.
Monir said the government and the importers are looking for alternative market sources to import the printing materials and chemicals.
He said the supply of the imported printing materials should be ensured in the market to protect the industry from the fallout of the coronavirus outbreak in China.
“We’re going through a tough time due to the rise in most printing materials when the country’s biggest book fair is in progress. The book that used to cost Tk 70-80 in the past is now costing Tk 110-120,” said an employee at Shabda Shoili Publication.
He said many printing material suppliers claim that they have run out of their stocks though they could not publish many books yet for the book fair. “Writers are mounting pressure on us to bring their books to the book fair, but we can’t do that due to high production costs.”
Some other employees of Banglar Prokash, Kotha Prokash and Nolak Publication also voiced frustration that they will not be able to publish many books for the book fair due to the crisis of printing materials.
Contacted, Prof Dr Sudhangshu Sekhar Roy, chairman of Dhaka University’s Department of Printing and Publication Studies, said the prices of many printing materials have gone up as China has stopped exporting the items owing to coronavirus outbreak. “It’s surely a blow to the printing industry during the Ekushey Book Fair.”
He said the printing industry has got dependent on China due to the availability and cheap prices of its items. “I think big publication houses have their own stocks to face the sudden short supply of the materials, but the small publication houses will receive the serious blow.”
Sudhangshu hoped that China will be able to control the coronavirus within a short time as the rate of fresh infection of the disease is declining gradually. “I hope the situation will return to normalcy by two months.”
He said the authorities concerned can take steps to import printing materials from some other countries like South Korea, India and Japan to keep the supply of the necessary items undisturbed and protect the industry from danger.