T-shirts, trousers, jackets, shirts and sweaters- these five apparel categories are contributing to 61% of total export earnings of Bangladesh and ruling the textile sector by providing 73% of total RMG export earnings. In total, we can say that Bangladesh’s export sector is totally dependent on these five products.
In the fiscal year of 2018-19, the total export earning of Bangladesh was USD 40.53 bn. Of this, the RMG sector brought about USD 34.13 bn whereas shirts, trousers, t-shirts, jackets, sweaters- these five products earned USD 24.90 bn contributing to 72.95% of total RMG export earnings.
Various kinds of value-added products like suits, blazers, underwear, swimsuits, etc. are also being manufactured in Bangladesh alongside other products.
In hindsight, value-added product manufacturing has not taken the center stage on a large scale over the years. In FY2014-15, the above stated five major products earned 78% of total RMG export which has decreased by a small margin to 73% in current fiscal year.
RMG sector has grown in Bangladesh in accordance with only foreign buyers’ recipe. As a consequence, local entrepreneurs have become expert mostly in making basic products.
On top of it, over the last few years, labor wages, electricity and gas price, higher interests against bank loans, etc. have increased significantly bringing a serious headache for the entrepreneurs.
Experts from textile sector opined, “To make the RMG sector sustainable in the future, we should seriously focus on producing value-added products. For this, we need to attract more foreign investments especially the Chinese.”
According to BGMEA, among the five major products, export earnings from T-shirts possess the largest amount. In the last fiscal year, USD 7.01 bn worth of t-shirts have been exported showing an increase of 11.44% comparing to the previous year.
Engr. Mohammad Mezbah Uddin, Executive Director of T&M Sourcing said, “T-shirts export is increasing as diversified T-shirt is being produced by our manufacturers. They are making value-added T-shirts using the latest printing technology like functional T-shirt, reflective T-shirt, perfume T-shirt, etc.”
After t-shirt, trouser is the second major product. In the last five years, the export of trouser products has increased by USD 1.25bn. In FY 2018-18, USD 6.94bn worth of trousers have been exported which is 8.60% higher than the previous year.
The third-highest exported product is jacket. Jacket export has increased consecutively over the last three years. In the last fiscal year, the product brought USD 4.38 bn for the country. The earning was USD 3.97 bn in FY2017-18 showing an increase of about 10.32%.
Sweater export is also increased by a significant growth of 50%. In FY2018-19, export earnings from sweater was USD 2.32bn showing a growth of 12.62% comparing to the previous fiscal year.
Although during the last five years, t-shirt and sweater export have increased significantly. In the case of shirt export, in last fiscal year, shirts brought USD 2.32bn which is 12.32% higher than previous year.
Managing director of Classic Group, Shahidullah Azim recently said, “Dependence on only five basic products isn’t good for the RMG sector in the long term. In order to lead a sustainable RMG sector, the export of cheap and value-added products should be equal in ratio. Already many of our entrepreneurs are producing value-added products. But in order to increase it on a larger scale, we should focus on bringing more foreign investors.”
He also added,” China is the market leader in producing value-added products. Due to the US-China trade war, a lot of RMG factories of China are being shifted to Vietnam, Taiwan, and Thailand. Among these industries, only two have been shifted to Bangladesh. The government should take necessary steps in this regard to attracting more Chinese investors.”
However, Senior Vice-President of BGMEA, Foysal Samad thinks that it could be possible to increase the price of cheap products, “Shirt, trouser, jacket, t-shirt, sweater- these are the main powers of our RMG sector. If we can improve their design and diversify our products, we can obviously demand a higher price for them. For this, we should focus more on research and development and try to keep in pace with updating global fashion trends.”