Batik industry on sharp decline due to the pandemic

A. Thomas Fatima Mary, 69, (right) and Karen Wong, 50, checking out the batik at batik factory in Teluk Bahang, Penang. (April 14,2021). - CHAN BOON KAI/The Star

GEORGE TOWN: The batik industry has hit rock bottom with demand for the colourful fabric plummeting due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Local batik factory director Quah Chin Choon said since the movement control order began last year, his business has dropped by 95%.

“Batik may be a national treasure and is part of our heritage but like the fashion industry, it is badly affected by Covid-19.

“Fashion will always take a backseat to physical health. Local demand has dropped and so, too, are foreign visitors. Tour agents would usually bring visitors over to our factory to learn more about batik.

“When they leave, they would usually take back some souvenirs.

“We miss the international guests, ” he said at his factory in Teluk Bahang.

Quah said even before the pandemic, the batik industry was already in decline due to a lack of popularity.

“From the 1970s to 1990s, many people used batik, whether for their daily wear or special occasions.

“Now, we rely on foreigners and big events to bring in the customers. The pandemic has brought all this to a standstill, ” he said.

Quah said the lack of local events due to the pandemic had further compounded their misery.

“People usually buy batik shirts for special functions because they are the required attire.

“Some even order custom-made shirts for their members for annual functions.

“We lost that business market as there are no more such large gatherings now, ” he said.

Quah said while his business had found a way to temporarily stay afloat, he heard that many batik businesses had to either wound up or downsized.

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