SUNBIZ

Halabe: Millions Of Dollars At Stake In The Fate of the Garment Sector

The fate of major garment factory Mark One Apparel hangs in the balance. The balance, according to owner and managing director Mark Halabe, is the challenge. Speaking from Australia, he
28 May 2021 16:11
Halabe: Millions Of Dollars At Stake In The Fate of the Garment Sector
A file photo of Mark One Apparel owner and managing director Mark Halabe, closest to camera, with Textile Clothing and Footwear council president, Mike Towler, (behind him) on a tour of Mark One factory in Valelevu. From left: Former Bank South Pacific Country Head for Fiji Kevin McCarthy with Nick Byrne and Ratu Isoa Gavidi.

The fate of major garment factory Mark One Apparel hangs in the balance.

The balance, according to owner and managing director Mark Halabe, is the challenge.

Speaking from Australia, he said customers of a number of Fiji’s garment factories were shifting orders to China, Bangladesh, and other Southeast Asian countries.

The textile clothing and footwear industry net exports over $100 million a year, Mr Halabe said.

“The value of capital within the textile clothing and footwear industry would be in the hundreds of millions and is now under serious threat,” he said.

“The forced extended closure of non-essential business would seriously impact the viability of the economy.

“The hundreds of employees who have depleted their entitlements will soon run out of any livelihood.

“The export income Fiji desperately needs has dried up from tourism, and now the textile clothing and footwear industry.”

Mr Halabe said the reliability of Fiji as an exporter of time sensitive apparel was seriously impacted.

“The alternative global suppliers are still manufacturing under safe COVID-19 protocols while the Fiji textile clothing and footwear industry is closed,” he said.

Mr Halabe said: “The reality of business being closed permanently is stark as cash and orders dry up.”

The textile, clothing and footwear industry has proposed safe COVID-19 protocols to allow a small percentage of staff to return, Mr Halabe said.

“But the Ministry of Health is not allowing it,” he said.

“They have proposed a totally impracticable protocol that will require the employer to accommodate staff within a bubble enforced by the Republic of Fiji Military Forces.

“Mostly women who will need to be away from family for an extended time are not viable nor finding suitable accommodation for so many staff.”

Mr Halabe said there was a safe COVID-19 protocol that would work, and was working within Fiji.

“However, the Ministry of Health has still not allowed it for the textile clothing and footwear industry,” he said. SunBiz sent queries to Permanent Secretary for Health Doctor James Fong.

Dr Fong did say he would look at the email.

He did not respond when this edition went to press.

Permanent Secretary for Commerce Shaheen Ali said a written response would be issued. However, after several phone calls and emails yesterday to  Mr Ali, his written response had still not been received when this edition went to press.

Feedback: frederica.elbourne@fijisun.com.fj



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