By Arya Dipa
Located 40 kilometers southeast of the province’s capital city in Bandung municipality, Majalaya is known as one of Indonesia’s biggest producers of sarongs, a loose garment made of a long strip of cloth that is widely used by Muslim men and women around the country to perform prayers.
Unlike previous years, many sarong makers in Majalaya have been offering their products at relatively low prices during this year’s Ramadhan, which began on June 18 and is expected to last until July 16, to respond to sluggish demand.
Dayat, a 60-year-old sarong trader from Bandung, for example, said he had recently managed to buy 3,000 sarongs from an ailing sarong factory in Majalaya for a low price.
“I only paid Rp 300,000 [US$22.40] for every 20 sarongs, much lower compared to the normal price that stands at around Rp 350,000,” the retired civil servant told The Jakarta Post recently.
Deden Sawega, the owner of sarong-making company CV Sandang Makmur Lestari, said all sarong makers in Majalaya had been struggling with low demand from the local market since earlier this year.
Many sarong makers, Deden said, used to expect that business would bounce back during Ramadhan, the time when Muslims across the country usually buy new sarongs or other Muslim attire, like koko shirts (long-sleeve collarless shirts) for men and head scarves for women, for gifts or personal use.
Their expectations, however, did not become reality this year, even after the second week of Ramadhan, forcing them to sell their stock below normal price in the hope of partly covering production costs.
“Until three months ago, all factories in Majalaya had stockpiled up to 600,000 sarongs. As of recently, there are between 200,000 to 300,000 sarongs remaining in our stock. This situation is alarming as we usually have no stock left in the weeks prior to Ramadhan,” Deden said, adding that hundreds of sarong factories in Majalaya could produce around 1 million sarongs annually.
In response to the sluggish demand, Dede said he preferred to cut down his production capacity.
“By the end of last year, I managed to employ 40 people and run 42 [sarong manufacturing] machines, but now I’m only able to employ 18 people and operate 24 machines,” Deden said, adding that several other companies had even stopped production as they were no longer able to pay their electricity bills.
Sales in textiles slumped by more than 40 percent in the January-April period from the past year, according to a recent report from the Indonesian Textile Association (API).
Last month, API chairman Ade Sudrajat also reported that at least 6,000 textile factory workers had been dismissed in Bandung regency between January and May due to weak sales and rising production costs. Some factories, according to him, had also trimmed working time from seven days to just three days as a result of the sluggish demand.
Data from the association shows that West Java is the largest contributor to national textile production with 49 percent, while Jakarta and Banten contribute 16 percent, Central and East Java represent 14 percent each and the remaining 3 percent comes from other regions.
Separately, West Java Industry and Trade Agency head Ferry Sofwan Arif said the local administration had learned about the sluggish sarong demand in Majalaya. As a short-term support, Ferry said the local administration had urged civil servants to buy Majalaya-made sarongs during Ramadhan.