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Unabated RMG thefts on Dhaka-Chattogram Highway hurting prime export sector

14 October 2021

Unabated thefts of readymade garment goods on the Dhaka-Chattogram Highway has come as a fresh blow to apparel exporters who are already in a tight spot in this pandemic time because of high prices of raw materials, fall in product prices in the international market and container logjams at the Chattogram port. The thefts could lead to loss of reputation of Bangladesh's apparel sector and eventually cancellation of work orders, affecting the country's largest export sector.
Leaders of the Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association had a meeting with the home ministry seeking measures to stop the stealing of apparel goods during transportation. The meeting did decide to install closed-circuit cameras along the Dhaka-Chattogram Highway. Transport owners had also been instructed to install GPS trackers in all goods-laden cargo vans to check thefts by monitoring transport movements. But the transport owners are reportedly yet to act on the instruction. Besides, a decision was also taken to form a committee comprising exporters, transport owners, police and other parties concerned to find a solution to the problem. Otherwise, such incidents will erode the confidence of buyers in Bangladesh.
According to DB police, the thieves have become so seasoned that exporters do not even know about thefts until their buyers inform them of missing items, sometimes months after shipment, causing embarrassment for them and the country. Once the loading at the factory is complete, the drivers, who are part of the gangs, pass the message to their partners in crime about the shipment, the route and the time. As per understanding, the vehicles stop on the highway and go to secret warehouses. There, the gangs take off the seals of the padlocks on the cargo door, open the cartons, remove some garment items from the bottom of the boxes, refill those with sand, rags or even mud, and then reseal the cartons. The repackaging is done so smartly that it is difficult to spot any deformity until the foreign buyers open the cartons.
Detectives have identified at least eight such gangs and have arrested ten people over their alleged involvement in the organised crime. To prevent highway thefts, strengthening vigilance by law enforcement agencies including Highway Police and District Police is a must. Otherwise the thieves will damage RMG exports and continue to taint the image of the country abroad.  

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