RMG backs export earnings, knitwear surpasses woven

Exports earnings of Bangladesh maintained the robust growth for the 5 months (July-November) of the 2021-22 fiscal year with a 24.29% year-on-year growth to $19.8 billion, backed by the apparel sector.

However, the new Omicron variant of Covid-19 is spreading panic among the exporters, even though the new variant hasn’t yet had such an impact on the exports.

According to the Export Promotion Bureau (EPB) data, Bangladesh earned $19.8 billion in the first 5 months (July-November) of the FY22, which is also 13.27% higher than the target of 17.47%.

For the July-November period of FY22, the apparel sector registered a growth of 22.97%, compared to the same period of the last year, showed the EPB data.  

During the July-November of FY22, Bangladesh exported apparel items worth $15.85 billion, which was $12.89 in the same period of FY21.

In this period, knitwear maintained growth of 25.91% to $8.98 billion, and the woven sector experienced a growth of 19.32% to $6.87 billion.

Knitwear has surpassed woven

During the 1980s, woven clothing, like shirts and pants, was the main export item of the apparel sector, fetching a share of nearly 90%. 

After then, the capacity of the knitwear dresses was initiated gradually and knitwear and woven garment's contribution in total exports gradually came to parity. 

However, the picture has changed since the last decade. According to the EPB data, the share of knitwear clothing increased in the country's total export by surpassing the woven garments. 

During the July-November period of the current fiscal year, knitwear maintained growth of 25.91% to $8.98 billion, and the woven sector experienced a growth of 19.32% to $6.87 billion.

In the 2020-21 fiscal year, knitwear exports experienced a growth of 21.94% to $16.9 billion (43.76% of total export), and woven experienced 3.24% growth to $14.5 billion (37.4% of total export).

Both knitwear and woven products experienced a dip in export in the 2019-20 fiscal year, 18.58% and 17.65% respectively. But the contribution of knitwear and woven was 41.30% and 41.70% of the total export respectively.

According to the manufacturers, Bangladesh earns more than 82% of the export earnings from the apparel sector. 

The apparel items are basically divided into two parts - woven items and knitwear items - considering the type of clothing.

T-shirts, polo shirts, sweaters, trousers, joggers, shorts are called knitwear whereas formal shirts, pants, suits, denim, and jeans are known as woven clothing, they added.

Industry insiders said that the increase in the contribution of knitwear in the total exports seems to be a normal trend. The share of knitwear has been increasing for a long time.

Talking to Dhaka Tribune, Fazlee Shamim Ehsan, vice president of the Bangladesh Knitwear Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BKMEA), said that the main reason for it is the strong backward linkage capability of the knit garment.

“That is why we are in a better position in terms of pricing and delivery timing. Quicker delivery is a big fact in a fashion,” he added.

He also said that the demand of buyers has changed from time to time. Knitwear clothing is much more comfortable and easy to wear than woven, which has also been leaning buyers towards it.

Asked whether the demand for knitwear is increasing due to coronavirus, he said that the demand may have increased little for this in the last two fiscal years as people had to stay home.

“However, the export of knitwear has been increasing over the last few financial years mainly due to the fashion switching of the buyers. People now use sports tracks instead of sweaters during winter,” he added.

Omicron variant: BGMEA guidelines for factories

Being the earners of the lion part of the export earnings, manufacturers are worried about the recent Omicron variant.

Mohiuddin Rubel, director of the BGMEA said that the new Covid variants are emerging and the global economy is witnessing immediate shocks. 

“Buyers, who are following a cautious step since the first wave of the pandemic, will certainly be more cautious now. Europe, particularly, will take more time to recover from the retail industry slowdown, which is worrisome for us,” he added.

If the upcoming Christmas sale is affected, this will have an adverse impact in the coming months, he said.

Meanwhile, BGMEA issued 17 directives to export-oriented garment factories to prevent the transmission of this variant.

BGMEA suggested emphasizing setting different times for opening and closing times of production to avoid overcrowding.

BGMEA also suggested maintaining social distance, shifting working hours, and measuring the body temperature of the workers.

There are also instructions to hand sanitiser, avoid crowds, and set different times for lunch and other breaks.

BGMEA also instructed workers to wear masks and if anyone has any symptoms, factories have been asked to keep them in isolation.

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