Apparel exports, the lifeline of Bangladesh export earnings, posted a robust growth by 30.36%, the highest ever, in the calendar year 2021.
According to Export Promotion Bureau (EPB) data, Bangladesh earned $35.81 billion in 2021, up by 30.36%, which was $27.47 billion in 2020.
Of the total exports earning from the clothing products, $19.60 billion came from knitwear products, which is 37.72% higher compared to $14.22 billion in the same period of the previous year. Woven products earned $16.21 billion, up by 22.45%, which was $13.24 billion in 2020.
Talking to Textile Today, industry people and trade analysts attributed the rise in demand and prices of apparel goods mostly in the European Union and the United States of America for the sharp rise in exports.
On top of that, relocation of work orders from China, Myanmar and Ethiopia helped the sector in recording a push acted as push factors for the robust growth.
Government policy supports and incentives also give a cushion against the fallout of the Covid-19 pandemic, they said.
“Apparel exports growth is very encouraging. If the present trend continues, Bangladesh would be able to reach the $50 billion mark very soon,” Professor Mostafizur Rahman, distinguished fellow at Centre for Policy Dialogue (CPD).
Demands of apparel RMG products increased sharply in the EU and US market with the improvement of the Covid-19 situation, said the economist.
On top of that, Bangladesh cashed the political turmoil of Myanmar and trade conflict between the US and China, said Rahman.
“With the outbreak in March 2020, Bangladesh apparel sector fell in uncertainty as the demands of goods declined sharply, while buyers canceled and held work orders. But the work order started to peak with the ease in Covid-19 infection rate and vaccination,” S.M. Mannan Kochi, Senior Vice President, BGMEA told the Textile Today.
On the other hand, government policy support to generate employment in the US and EU also created employment and the people buying capacity went up. That is why, the import from Bangladesh rose sharply, he added.
Knitwear products contributed significantly to the total apparel exports by earning $19.60 billion.
“As the country can supply almost 100% raw materials to the sub-sector, it posted better growth. While people’s long stay at home due to Covid-19 pandemic increased the demands of knitwear products,” Fazlul Hoque, Managing Director of Plummy Fashions Ltd told Textile Today.
As we have a supply of raw materials from domestic sources, we were able to execute bulk orders and ship in time, said Hoque, also a former President of Bangladesh Knitwear Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BKMEA).
“Rising raw materials price was a great challenge for the exporters and still exists. But adjustment of raw material prices helped the exporters to some extent. As the prices of finished goods moved up, overall exports earnings recorded robust growth,” BGMEA president Faruque Hassan told The Textile Today.
On the other hand, even amid the pandemic, we delivered goods in time, which gave buyers the confidence to place more work orders, he explained.
As there are enough work orders flow and buyers are placing more work orders for the next seasons, the growth momentum will continue, said Hassan, also Managing Director of Giant Group.
Exports to non-traditional markets as well as robust growth in the US market also played an important role in the sharp rise in exports.
Apparel exports to the non-tradition market rose by 25.76 percent to $5.68 billion in 2021, which was $4.52 billion in 2020.
“With the traditional market, non-tradition played an important role to earn better from exports of clothing products. Non-traditional market buyers are placing huge orders and small factories, even some of the large factories manufacturing their goods, said Shahidullah Azim, Vice President of Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA).
Bangladesh takes advantage of the cloudy situation in Myanmar due to political unrest, while a group of buyers moved to Bangladesh from Vietnam and China, he added.
How to retain the growth
In retaining the growth, a functional port and continuation of existing policy support is a requirement. While the workers’ vaccination is another essential part to keep the factories operational.
“As said by the industry people, there are enough work orders, we should focus on carrying out these. While attracting new buyers and taking orders is crucial for the exporters in making the growth sustainable,” Khondaker Golam Moazzem, Research Director at Centre for Policy Dialogue (CPD) told the Textile Today.
In addition, the government has to ensure smooth operation in ports for timely delivery of imported and export goods. Continuation of government policy support is a must, said the economist.
Manufacturers need to ensure shipment in time and maintain health safety guidelines so that workers do not fall sick and control infection, he added.
Government support acted as a big factor for the turnaround in export earnings. If the government relaxes the repayment of stimulus loans, it would be a tool to retain the growth, said Hassan.
He also called for further financial support in case of a deepening crisis due to the omicron.