China, the global leader in apparel business, could turn into a major export destination for Bangladesh because of its huge population with a growing section of middle-income households. China is shifting production from basic to high-end garment products and has a shortage of skilled labour.
Riding on a duty-free trade privilege, Bangladesh’s garment export to China increased 14.77 percent year-on-year to $391.59 million in fiscal 2016-17, something exporters are seeing as a sign that new opportunities are awaiting. During the 2008-2009 global recession, global trade experienced a significant slump but Bangladesh’s export got a boost for increased shipments to China.
Exporters are upbeat about Chinese markets as this potential can be a very good substitute for continued apparel export growth at a time when shipments to other traditional destinations like the US, EU and Canada is falling.
“Garment export from my group has been maintaining 10 percent growth every year to China. China is a new destination for us,” said Asif Zahir, director of Ananta Group, a leading garment exporter. Zahir exported garment products, mainly of denim and trousers, worth US $15 million last year for retailers like H&M, GAP and Zara who are his main buyers from Chinese markets.
Zahir said, “We need a strong marketing strength for the Chinese markets. Because, we have huge potential there”.
In the fiscal 2016-17, to China overall Bangladesh export also increased by 17.49 percent to US $949.41 million from US $808.14 million in the 2015-16 fiscal, according to data from Bangladesh Export Promotion Bureau. Very soon China would become the second Asian market after Japan for Bangladeshi exports to cross the US $1 billion mark.
“The Chinese market would grow automatically as they have already shifted from producing basic items. We should maintain a warm relationship with China for higher export”, said Anwar-ul-Alam Chowdhury Parvez, a former president of Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA).
Recently, a study by Switzerland-based International Textile Manufacturers Federation (ITMF) said by the end of 2020, China would produce US $750 billion worth garments from the current US $300 billion, half for export and the remaining for domestic use. Currently, about 80 percent of China’s garment products are produced for local consumption. So Bangladesh should focus on this Asian economic giant for its future export growth.