BANGKOK — Bangladesh’s brick-making industry has been steadily declining for decades.
But its most visible face in the country’s economy is not the brick factory that has become synonymous with the city’s skyline, but the brick-laying and mortar business.
The Bangladesh Brick and Mortar Association (BAMMA) estimates that more than half of all the bricks produced in Bangladesh in 2013 were used in the industry.
It is the countrys biggest brick-building and mortar factory, employing some 4,500 people.
Bangladeshi brickmakers are among the fastest-growing in the world, accounting for about 30% of the global total.
A brick-maker, or brick-mason, is a man who makes bricks for a living, said M.D. Akbar, president of BAMMA.
He usually has a university degree and an apprenticeship, he said.
The most famous brickmakers in Bangladesh were the builders who built the Taj Mahal in Agra in the early 20th century.
Akbar said he had never seen the industry so weak.
“I think it is because of the economic crisis that many people are still going in for bricks,” he said in a recent interview.
“People are afraid to go out and buy bricks because they fear the government may close down their business.”
Arambagh Brick Factory in Agrodhar, Bangladesh.
The industry has had some success, but many of its bricks are being used in building construction sites that don’t meet the strict building codes, like those for a hotel.
Akbar also said brickmakers have struggled to attract investors and maintain the business model.
He said that some bricks are used for building purposes but the companies are not making them.
We have no revenue, Akbar said.
In recent years, the industry has seen an influx of foreign companies.
BAMBA members have opened factories in several European countries, including Belgium, Germany, France, Spain and the United Kingdom.
They are also in the process of opening an American facility in Arizona.
According to BAMTA, the number of brickmakers increased from 2,876 in 2009 to 3,813 in 2013.
It’s the largest increase since 2002.
Some of the foreign firms are building brick factories to supply China.
A brick maker in Thailand, for instance, recently opened a brick factory in Bangkok.