Workers shortage forces exporters to scale down production
Programs to develop trained hands in the offing
KATHMANDU, July 29: Uday Chapagain, proprietor of Ilam-based Gorkha Tea Estate, has scaled down productions not because of raw material shortage or overseas market. His attempt to run the factory in full swing has turned futile because of the acute shortage of workers.
“I need at least 72 workers for full-fledged operation of my factory. But I have only around 35 workers,” Chapagain said, adding, “With the workforce in my disposal, I can run the factory at around 50 percent of the capacity.”
He also said collection of tea leaves in his estate has dropped to 200 kg a day from 500 kg a day a couple of years ago.
Chapagain, who is also the president of Himalayan Orthodox Tea Producers Association, said about a dozen tea estates are running at 50 percent of total capacity because of acute shortage of workers.
Nepal exported tea worth Rs 1.17 billion during the first 10 months of fiscal year 2011/12. The country had exported tea worth Rs 1.54 billion during 2010/11.
Chapagain is among hundreds of producers of Nepali exportable goods who have been forced to downscale production due to deepening manpower crunch.
Entrepreneurs involved in production and exports of readymade garments (RMGs), carpet, pashmina, coffee and hand-made papers, among others, are experiencing similar problems. Increasing movement of workers to greener pastures abroad has created acute shortage of trained hands in the country, affecting production of industrial units.
Hit hard by shortage of workers, some of the entrepreneurs have already worked out plans to develop required human resources in collaboration with the government.
“Around three dozen surviving apparel makers are in need of at least 4,500 workers. But as there are no sufficient workers, we have forwarded a proposal to the Ministry of Commerce and Supplies (MoCS) to train around 300 workers a year for the sector,” Chandi Prasad Aryal, first vice-president of Garment Association-Nepal (GAN) told Republica on Sunday. Aryal said trained workers could be immediately absorbed in the apparels industry with lucrative salary offers.
Nepal´s RMG industry used to employ around 100,000 people in around 1,000 factories in early 2000s. The number of workers employed by the industry has now shrunk to around 8,000, thanks to the loss of lucrative US market after the US government ended free access facility to Nepali apparel from 2005.
According to Trade and Export Promotion Center (TEPC), Nepal exported RMG worth Rs 4.08 billion in 2010/11. During the first 10 months of 2011/12, the country exported apparels worth Rs 3.35 billion.
The plight of carpet exporters is no different. “The carpet industry, which currently employs around 100,000 workers, is facing shortage of around 50,000 workers,” Gopal Krishna Joshi, former vice-president of Central Carpet Industries´ Association, said. “We are soon coming up with an aggressive plan to develop trained hands for the sector.”
Nepal exported hand-knotted carpet worth Rs 4.9 billion during 2010/11. During the first 10 months of fiscal year 2011/12, the country exported carpet worth Rs 3.92 billion.
Mandu Babu Adhikari, CEO of Nepal Pashmina Industries Association (NPIA), said big pashmina producers have been forced to outsource production to small producers due to shortage of workers and increase unionization in factories.
Pradeep Maharjan, CEO of Agro Enterprises Center at Federation of Nepalese Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FNCCI), said even agro-based farms producing major exportable commodities like tea, coffee, handmade papers and lentils have been hit by shortage of workers.