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Exports break losing streak in December

  • Published at 09:47 pm January 5th, 2020
Export-infograph

The growth in the single month was led by positive growth in the apparel sector, which posted an 1.26% rise to $2.93 billion in December compared to the same period a year ago

The country's export earnings regained its positive face, registering a 2.89% growth in December and reining in the downturn that cast a shadow on the overall economy for the fourth consecutive month. 

The growth in the single month was led by positive growth in the apparel sector, which posted an 1.26% rise to $2.93 billion in December compared to the same period a year ago. 

According to Export Promotion Bureau data released on Sunday, Bangladesh earned $3.52 billion in December last year, which was $3.43 billion in the same month a year ago. 

In November, the country’s export earnings declined by 10.70% to $3.05 billion for the fourth consecutive month compared with the corresponding period of last year.

However, export earnings during July-December of the current fiscal year registered a 5.84% negative growth to $19.30 billion, which was $20.50 billion in the same period of the last fiscal year.   

The apparel sector, which accounts for 84.21% of total exports, witnessed a 6.21% decline to $16.02 billion in the first half of the current fiscal year, which was $17.08 billion in the same period last year.

“Behind the continuous fall in exports is the loss of competitiveness, which still persists and is likely to continue,” Faisal Samad, senior vice president of Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA), told Dhaka Tribune. 

"It is difficult to say when we will be able to return to positive growth but hopefully in March-April, when new work orders will start coming for the new season," said Faisal, also managing director of Surma Garments Ltd.  

Amid such a gloomy situation, the apparel exports saw growth in December. 

BGMEA President Rubana Huq, however, does not find it a matter of exhilaration.    

"The growth, if compared between fiscal year 2017-18 and 2018-19, is nominal. Just an increase in apparel export earnings in December does not signify the trend of the sector “turning around” as such," she has told Dhaka Tribune.

"December and January are the peak months anyway, and keeping that in mind, we haven’t had any significant gain. The first two weeks of December remained negative while the second half picked up slightly," she explained. 

"We are losing competitiveness and won’t be able to sustain the general expectation of riding on high tides lest we have no policy support," she mentioned.

However, economists have termed the growth in December as a positive indicator for rest of the current fiscal.

“Positive trend in export earnings in single month is a good sign for the exporters. Though, there is negative growth in the first half, it is an indication of turning around,” Centre for Policy Dialogue (CPD) Research Director Khondaker Golam Moazzem has told Dhaka Tribune. 

To return to the positive territory, it was high time that reforms initiatives were taken and implemented, Moazzem suggested. 

"Another issue is exchange rate, which needs to be taken into consideration for increasing exporters' competitiveness. But the growth in December proves that appreciation of Taka against US dollar is not a big reason for negative growth," said the economist.

Situation of other major export sectors

The export earnings from leather and leather goods in July-December of FY20 fell by 10.61% to $476 million from $532 million in the same period of the last fiscal year.

Export earnings from leather-footwear in the first half of the FY20 fell by 12.69% to $284 million while other leather products fetched $126 million with an 8.30% growth in the period.

The export earnings from jute and jute goods in the July-December of FY20, however, grew by 121.55% to $512 million from $421 million in the same period of FY19.

Export earnings from home textile in the first half of FY20, declined by 9.5% to $370 million from $405 million in the same period of FY19.

The export earnings from agricultural products in the first six months of FY20 grew by 1.21% to $524 million from $518 million in the same period of FY19.

The frozen and live fish export revenue decreased by 7.7% to $291 million while the earnings from shrimp export fell by 3.27% to $217 million in the first five months of FY20.