Bangladesh’s export earnings rose by 6.86% to $14.56 billion in the first five months of the current fiscal year, with the RMG sector being the largest contributor to this growth.
Industry insiders attributed the increase in export earnings to initiatives undertaken to improve workers’ safety standards in garment factories. They said the measures appreciably helped restore foreign buyers’ confidence in Bangladesh as a sourcing destination.
The latest data of the Export Promotion Bureau (EPB) shows that between July and November of Fiscal Year 2017-18, Bangladesh earned $14.56 billion, while the amount was $13.62 billion in the corresponding period last fiscal year.
During this period, the RMG sector, which is considered the lifeline of Bangladesh’s economy, earned the country $11.96 billion, 7.46% up compared to $11.13 billion in the same period last year.
Knitwear products earned $6.24 billion, a 10.86% rise, and woven garment products earned $5.71 billion, a 4% rise, compared to $5.50 billion in the corresponding period last year.
In November alone, export earnings rose to $3.06 billion, a 6.22% rise compared to $2.87 billion in November 2016. The amount was 6.63% higher compared to the $2.87 billion target set for the month, the EPB data shows.
Speaking to the Dhaka Tribune, Faruque Hassan, senior vice-president of Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA), said the increase in export earnings signifies that the RMG industry has successfully come out of the disgraceful chapter of such incidents as Tazreen Fashion fire and Rana Plaza collapse.
He said: “The fact that factory owners invested a lot of money in improving workplace safety has been well reflected in inspection reports of Accord and Alliance [platforms of foreign buyers in Bangladesh].
“Besides, we are working to technologically overhaul RMG factories so that the dependency on manual labour can be reduced.”
Faruque further said: “The initiatives taken so far to modernize the industry and improve workplace safety will conclude soon. We are now expecting an even better growth in the coming days, as foreign buyers’ confidence in Bangladesh has been significantly boosted in recent times.”
Unusually long lead time is a big challenge to meeting buyers’ satisfaction. Therefore, those involved in RMG business should focus on removing barriers, such as port congestion, and improving transportation services to ensure a timely, uninterrupted shipment of their products, he stressed.
Putting emphasis on a balanced export growth, noted economist ABM Mirza Azizul Islam said: “We are heavily dependent on the RMG sector for export earnings. This may be risky in certain periods. So, the government should focus on the diversification of export basket and value addition to potential products.”
Earnings from other sectors
Export earnings from frozen and live fish stood at $272 million, agricultural products at $260 million, pharmaceuticals at $43 million, jute and jute products at $451 million, home textiles at $331 million, furniture at $19 million, and non-leather footwear at $108 million.
However, earnings from plastic goods decreased by 35% to $37.48 million, leather and leather goods by nearly 3% to $518 million, specialized textiles by 3% to $39.35 million, and engineering products by 25.36% to $127 million.