16:00:31 local time CHINA
* Cotton firm harvests a bumper crop in Africa:
Agricultural company makes big splash with unique business model
The days of foreigners managing vast plantations, highlighted in movies such as Out of Africa, have long gone.
Today, most international agricultural companies have left the planting to local farmers, and focus instead on buying the harvest, and China’s largest agricultural company in Africa is now making significant inroads into the market.
China-Africa Cotton Development Ltd is a joint-venture between Qingdao Ruichang Cotton Industrial Co, China-Africa Development Fund and Qingdao Fuhui Textile Co.
Established in its current form in 2008, the company dates back to the 1970s, when Chinese workers built Tazara Railway. Few people knew that two textile companies were gifted to Zambia as well, one built by Qingdao Ruichang.
By the end of last year, China-Africa Cotton had grown a presence in Malawi, Mali, Mauritius, Mozambique, Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe, and its main stakeholder, China-Africa Development Fund, had invested $60 million in its operations.
Its assets had grown to $128 million in 2013 from $22 million in 2008, and its profits had hit $6.5 million.
It is now the second-largest cotton processing company in Zimbabwe, after the local State-owned company.
Wang Chuanyuan, its general manager, says Africa has become a key global cotton growing and processing market.
read more. & to read.
15:00:31 local time VIET NAM
* Leather, footwear criteria to be set:
The Viet Nam Leather and Footwear Association (VLFA) has unveiled plans to develop product quality and safety criteria to raise the industry’s production standards.
The move aims to offer a basis for producers to deliver better quality products and create a level playing field between domestic and foreign players.
The VLFA General Secretary Phan Thi Thanh Xuan told Industry and Trade newspaper that despite Viet Nam’s leather and footwear industry still being heavily reliant on imported materials, it did not have its own set of criteria to control the use of unsafe chemicals.
According to the association, the industry required 220,000 – 250,000 tonnes of leather each year, with domestic suppliers supplying about 100,000 tonnes.
Xuan said there were only a small group of testing centres in Viet Nam dedicated to assessing material inputs used by leather and footwear producers.
“As a result, footwear firms have to test their materials and products themselves to meet importers’ requirements,” she said.
Nguyen Bich Thuy, a representative from the Thuong Dinh Footwear Ltd Co, said the company usually sent its samples overseas for testing before producing bulk orders.
read more in BUSINESS IN BRIEF 1/7 (14th item).
15:00:31 local time LAOS
* Lao minimum wage under debate:
Various sectors have met here in the capital to discuss the possibility of a raise to the minimum wage, according to state-run daily Vientiane Times on Monday.
Representatives from the Lao Federation of Trade Union, the Lao National Chamber of Commerce and Industry and the Ministry of Labor and Social Welfare are debating the possible change. This would be the sixth minimum wage adjustment since 1991.
The wage rise is being considered to help better cater for the cost of living, to help people improve their living standards, and to counteract a labor shortage in the country.
15:00:31 local time CAMBODIA
* Striking Workers Settle for 50% of Their Pay Demands:
About 400 garment workers from a factory that closed abruptly earlier this month agreed Monday to stop protesting and blocking the road to Canadia Industrial Park in exchange for half the severance pay they are owed.
The workers from the Hongkong Yufeng garment factory, which shut down on June 9, were demanding severance pay from Canadia Industrial Park because the factory’s Japanese owner unexpectedly closed shop and disappeared.
Workers protested and blocked the road on Saturday and again Monday, despite the presence of Royal Cambodian Armed Forces soldiers sent to monitor the protest.
* Garment Wage Plan Set; Some Unions Hold Out:
The Labor Advisory Committee (LAC) on Monday approved a detailed schedule leading up to a pay raise for the country’s restive garment sector by January 2015, though a few unions continued to hold out for a raise in October and said protests might resume if they were refused.
The LAC, made up of government, factory and union representatives, approved a draft of the schedule two weeks ago. At Monday’s follow-up meeting, they made the plan official and added a few details.
According to a statement from the LAC, the government, factory owners and unions will all hold separate, internal meetings this month to start discussing next year’s raise. They will follow that with a series of bilateral meetings in August, a tri-partite meeting in September and finally a vote in October before the new minimum wage takes effect January 1.
Emerging from the meeting, Labor Minister Ith Sam Heng said three of the LAC’s 23 members present Monday voted against the plan and that there had been some “tension” in the room “because each side tried to protect its interests.”
The minister did not elaborate on who the holdouts were or the exact nature of the tensions, but—responding to reporters’ questions—said unions unhappy with the schedule were free to protest as long as they did so legally.
“We do not ban all those people from protesting because it is their right, but they must respect the law,” he said.
Ath Thorn, president of the Coalition of Cambodian Apparel Workers of Democratic Union, said he and Chheng Lang, deputy president of the National Independent Federation of Textile Unions in Cambodia, were among the three who voted against the plan. The vote was carried out by secret ballot.
* Wage raise decision in Oct: gov’t:
The controversial matter of next year’s garment sector minimum wage will be finalised in October and put into effect on January 1, a Ministry of Labour committee decided yesterday.
At a meeting of the Labour Advisory Committee (LAC) at the Labour Ministry, Minister of Labour Ith Sam Heng advised unions and employers to begin their own internal discussions about wages in July. Talks between the two groups will take place at the Ministry of Labour in August, he said.
“After August, we will have another meeting between unions, employers and the Ministry of Labour to discuss the minimum wage in September,” Sam Heng said. “In October, we will discuss and make the final decision of how much the . . . wage will be increased in 2015.”
The LAC’s decision in December to set 2014’s minimum wage at $95 per month, later changed by Sam Heng to $100, caused a nationwide strike led by unions who demanded their monthly floor wage be $160. The strike ended in deadly violence in early January.
* Unionists face embezzlement trial:
Phnom Penh Municipal Court is set to hear the civil case against the top three leaders of Cambodia’s largest independent garment union from a former member who alleges the trio embezzled more than $90,000.
Coalition of Cambodian Apparel Workers’ Democratic Union (C.CAWDU) president Ath Thorn, vice president Kong Athit and secretary-general Ek Sopheakdey will appear before a judge on July 2, union officials said yesterday.
Former CCAWDU member Um Visal alleges the trio pocketed $93,000 of a settlement they reached with E Garment to rehire 30 workers with 46 months’ back pay.
“He wants to put himself as leader of C.CAWDU,” Athit said of Visal, who has asked the court in a letter to name him the union’s interim chief. “We are very confident in our position.”
* ‘Anti-union bias’ in factories:
Discrimination against unions and incidents of garment factory managers interfering with freedom of association has slightly increased in the past year, a report from an International Labour Organization (ILO) factory-monitoring group says.
Factory managers’ hindrance of workers’ freedom of association rose by 2 per cent and anti-union bias climbed by 1 per cent, a synthesis report from the ILO’s Better Factories Cambodia (BFC) says. Data for the report were collected from 362 garment and nine shoe factories between May 2013 and this past April.
“We have to try new strategies to see more improvement,” Jill Tucker BFC’s chief technical adviser, said of the report, which also found improvements in areas including personal protection equipment and managers allowing sick leave. “The improvements are too small for my liking.”
* Garment Industry Strikes Flouting the Law, Factory Monitors Say:
The number of strikes in the garment sector has tripled since 2011, and of the 108 strikes that took place at factories monitored by the International Labor Organization’s Better Factories Cambodia program over the past year, all of them flouted the Labor Law.
But management also had a significant role to play in the deterioration of industrial relations, according to Better Factories’ 31st “synthesis report” on Cambodia, released Monday.
The report found that between May 1, 2013, and April 30 this year, little was done by management at the 362 garment factories and nine shoe factories it monitors to improve the protection of workers’ rights.
“The report captures a year of ups and downs for the Cambodian garment industry: huge growth, punctuated by mass strikes over the minimum wage, and few notable improvements in working conditions,” Jill Tucker, chief technical adviser for Better Factories Cambodia, said in the report.
* Doth he protest too much? :
Amid the gleaming interiors and high-end shops of Phnom Penh’s newly opened Aeon mall, Prime Minister Hun Sen yesterday saw something beyond the obvious leap forward for the Kingdom’s retail sector – the potential for chaos.
As he officially inaugurated the shopping centre at a ceremony attended by Japanese Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida, the premier said that if Cambodia did not have peace and stability, foreign investment like that behind the mall would vanish.
Japan’s Aeon Group has invested more than $200 million in the project, which is providing jobs to more than 2,500 Cambodians. Hun Sen warned that strikes for higher wages would paralyse business.
In an apparent reference to the opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party, which the premier has previously accused of inciting garment workers to protest earlier this year, Hun Sen said that anyone who wanted to create instability in Cambodia was “a criminal”.
14:00:31 local time BANGLADESH
* Wage discrimination against women still largely evident:
Taking advantage of their poverty and lack of awareness, middlemen hire them for low wages
Breaking the century-old tradition of remaining confined to their household chores, women are now getting engaged in physical labour outside their homes to support their poor families along with their fathers and husbands.
Taking advantage of their poverty and lack of awareness, middlemen hire them for low wages. Both the demand and employment of female labourers have considerably increased recently, but employers still often tend to exploit them.
“Although female workers are said to be more sincere and active than their male counterparts, the female workers are paid far less,” said Mim, 26, a sewing worker of the Ayesha-Abed Foundation at Rajbari BSCIC under Ramkantopur union of Sadar upazila in the district.
* Labour law in slow lane:
Govt misses deadline to finalise regulations
Factory owners are slow to implement the labour law amended a year ago, as the government is yet to put in place a set of regulations for enforcement.
In July 15 last year, the government amended the labour law of 2006 allowing workers full freedom of association. Some factories and trade unions then started applying the amended law without the regulations.
The new labour law and its enforcement through regulations were two major conditions for regaining trade benefits from the United States.
A sustainability compact signed with the European Union on July 8 last year also made it mandatory for Bangladesh to improve workplace safety standards and labour rights.
The EU will observe progress in safety efforts for one year before taking any trade measure against Bangladesh.
But the labour and employment ministry missed the March deadline to finalise the regulations.
“We could not finalise the regulations in time as we have to consult with many stakeholders and particularly with the leaders of the garment sector,” said Mikail Shipar, labour secretary.
THE TAZREEN FACTORY FIRE
* Fatal diseases wearing down Tazreen victims:
Many injured victims of the Tazreen Fashions fire, who could not afford proper treatment after the disaster, have developed fatal health complications over the last 19 months.
The workers, mostly female, were given treatment by the garment factory owners’ association, BGMEA, immediately after the fire on November 24, 2012.
Tazreen Fashions, a garment factory of Toba Group at Nishchintapur of Ashulia, outside the capital, was burnt down in the blaze, leaving 112 workers killed and hundreds injured.
Talking to The Daily Star at Nischintapur workers’ colony, some victims said they had been taken to different hospitals and clinics after the fire by the Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA) but they were released after primary treatment.
Amena Akter, a sewing machine operator, who jumped off the 4th floor to escape fire, is fighting for life at Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib Medical University (BSMMU) in the capital.
Her husband Abul Hosen, a rickshaw puller, can hardly buy any more medicines, as he has already sold his only home and 10 decimals of land at Lalmonirhat for Tk 1.84 lakh and paid for her treatment.
The poor man said Amena was taken to the Centre for Child and Woman Health Care at first, then to Dhaka Medical College Hospital and later to the Trauma Centre of the capital but she was released after primary treatment.
After 19 months, she was diagnosed with cancer. Her treatment was primarily funded by an organisation but they could not run it for long, he said.
13:30:31 local time INDIA
* Continue excise duty exemption on branded garments: CMAI:
The Clothing Manufacturers Association of India (CMAI) has urged the Indian Government to continue excise duty exemption on branded garments for the healthy growth of the organized sector.
In a representation sent to Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley and Minister of State for Textiles Santosh Kumar Gangwar, CMAI president Rahul Mehta said if the Government brings back compulsory excise duty on branded garments, it will create disastrous impact on apparel industry and it will help grey market.
Mr. Mehta, who is also vice chairman of International Apparel Federation (IAF), said the definition of a “Brand” under Excise Laws includes any garment, which has a name, or logo, or symbol or any other identification mark on the product or package.
Since all garments are sold with some label or the other, excise will be levied on all garments, and not merely on those meant for the rich and well-off, and urged the Textiles Ministry to take a firm stand on this issue and ensure that the move to bring back compulsory excise duty on branded garments is not implemented by the Government.
* Northbrook jute mill to reopen today:
Decision comes hours after a worker commits suicide
The management of Northbrook Jute Co. Ltd, which was closed following the murder of the mill’s Chief Executive Officer in broad daylight on June 15, decided on Monday to reopen the factory from July 1.
The decision came hours after a worker of the closed jute mill forced by financial hardship allegedly committed suicide. Neighbours and family members of Amir Chandra Gupta (45), whose body was found on a railway track between the Bhadreshwar and Baidyabati stations, said it was the frequent closing of the mill which forced the 45-year-old worker of the weaving section to take the extreme step.
“Gupta had worked in the jute mill for 15 years. He was under severe depression because of the closing down of the mill. Since he was the lone earning member, the family was facing a lot of financial hardship,” Ramesh Shaw, a local Trinamool Congress councillor of Champdani Municipality told The Hindu over telephone.
13:00:31 local time PAKISTAN
* ‘Future of textile workers at stake due to loadshedding’:
Acting Chairman APTMA Punjab Syed Ali Ahsan has said that the future of 15 million textile workers is at stake due to unprecedented electricity and gas load shedding for textile mills in Punjab.
He said all the Discos are observing 10 hours a day electricity load shedding since June 29, jeopardising the running capacities one after another in Punjab.
He deplored that the government was not ready to prioritise the industry in energy supply, resulting into about three billion dollars export loss during the fiscal year 2013-14. He deplored that energy supply to the textile industry during last four years has come to an alarming level, questioning the survival of industry altogether.
“The electricity load shedding was merely four hours a day in 2011 against 10 hours a day in 2014,” he said. “The gas load shedding was merely seven hours a day in 2011, which has jumped to 16 hours a day in 2014,” he added.
Ahsan said the textile industry is mainstay of Pakistan economy, contributing 46 percent in manufacturing, eight percent in GDP and 53 percent in total export receipts. Further, 15 million direct and indirect workforce is attached with the industry and some 70 percent of the textile industry is based in Punjab.
* Fesco cuts supply to powerloom units:
The Faisalabad Electric Supply Company (Fesco) panicked powerloom owners and workers by allegedly disconnecting power supply to their units on Sunday night without a prior information in a bid to ensure electricity during Iftar and Sehr.
The company allegedly issued notices also to textile exporters asking them to shut their factories during these timings. However, Fesco has not informed industrialists of alternative power supply schedule.
Industrialists wrote letters to Fesco expressing apprehension over its approach and asked officials to refrain from adopting methods that could create chaos in the district.
Council of Loom Owners Association Chairman Waheed Khaliq Ramay told Dawn a standing order had been issued to the SDOs to cut power supply to factories. He said Fesco employees, without prior information, had started to disconnect supply to powerloom factories on Jhang Road and other areas. He said the situation could lead to confrontation between workers and owners and Fesco officials.
* Secy admits failure to enforce minimum wage:
Parliamentary Secretary for Labour and Human Resources Mian Naveed Ali is not satisfied with the performance of his department.
“Officials at the labour and HR departments hardly discharge any of their duties. I have no hesitation in accepting failure of my department to implement minimum wages,” said the parliamentary secretary in his keynote address at a convention on labour and minimum wages issues here on Saturday.
Pattan Development Organisation National Coordinator Sarwar Bari said successive governments failed to improve working conditions of a large majority of the masses. “Minimum wage covers just calories needs of a person while human beings have other basic requirements too – shelter, clothing, education, health care etc. If the government intends to achieve its ‘education for all’ goal without giving ‘living wages’ this will never be fulfilled.”
* Textile exports rise to $12.6bn:
Exports of textile and clothing products witnessed an increase of 5.96 per cent in July-May 2014 from a year ago, mainly owing to a slight increase in export of value-added products.
The export value of such products surged to $12.626 billion in the first 11 months of the outgoing fiscal year as against $11.916bn over the corresponding period of last year, showed data of Pakistan Bureau of Statistics here on Monday.
Only nine textile products witnessed positive export growth among all textile and clothing categories.
In May, exports of textile and clothing witnessed a marginal growth of 1.19pc over the corresponding period of last year.