Despite the double-digit growth, however, RMG export was still 6.89% below the annual target of $33.78 billion
Exports in Bangladesh made a strong comeback in the 2020-21 fiscal year with a 15.1% year-on-year growth, hitting $38.75 billion.
According to the latest Export Promotion Bureau (EPB) data published on Monday, the growth of exports soared thanks to RMG export recovery which earned $31.45 billion in FY21 — a 12.55% growth.
Selim Raihan, executive director of South Asian Network on Economic Modeling (SANEM) said that in the last quarter of the 2019-20 financial year, exports declined at a significant rate due to the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic.
“The growth of exports is encouraging from the shaky situation of FY20. Although export earnings are yet to return to normal, the growth that has taken place shows that our export sector is turning around,” he also said.
Selim said that the RMG and other export-oriented industries that were outside of the lockdown have contributed a lot to this growth.
“However, the fear has not yet subsided. If we can overcome the effects of the second wave, hopefully, we will be able to move towards normalcy,” he added.
Despite the double-digit growth in RMG exports, however, the figure was still 6.89% below the annual target of $33.78 billion.
According to the EPB data, knitwear items drew $16.96 billion, recording a strong 21.94% year-on-year growth.
Woven products also posted a 3.24% positive growth, which was in the negative territory over the last one and a half years, reaching $14.49 billion at the end of the last fiscal year.
The demand for both knitwear and home textile items soared globally as people stayed at homes for a long time due to lockdown and the pandemic, exporters said.
SM Mannan Kochi, senior vice-president of Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA), said that the exports were severely disrupted last year due to the pandemic.
Compared to that, export has increased but it has yet to return to normalcy or the pre-pandemic levels, he added.
Exports in FY21 were less than the pre-pandemic fiscal year of 2018-19, which was $40.53 billion.
“Buyers' stores were closed due to the pandemic, many of them canceled orders or shipments were delayed. As the situation normalized, our entrepreneurs worked together to retain the buyers,” he added.
He also said that keeping the factories open in accordance with health directives and the government’s incentives also helped the sector in turning around.
“If all our demands from the government are fulfilled, we will be able to continue this growing trend of export and will soon be able to return to normalcy,” he added.
He also said that the RMG entrepreneurs are always trying to keep the wheel of the country's economy moving by taking the RMG sector — dubbed the lifeline of the economy of Bangladesh — forward.
Besides RMG, jute and jute goods, home textiles, and agricultural products are three other sectors to have crossed the $1 billion mark, the EPB data said.
Jute and jute goods earned $1.16 billion in FY21, fetching a 31.63% growth, up from $882.35 million in FY20.
Home textile also showed a very positive export growth by reaching the $1 billion mark for the first time.
In the last fiscal year, earnings from home textile grew by 49.17% to reach $1.13 billion, according to EPB data.
Agricultural products earned $1.02 billion fetching 19.27% growth in FY21. The earnings from this sector were $862.06 million in FY20.
Moreover, leather and leather goods — another top export item of Bangladesh — posted an 18.06% growth earning $941.67 million in FY21, which was $797.6 million in FY20.
The figure of total export earnings marked $33.67 billion in FY20.