Kazi Azizul Islam
The ongoing global economic recession has finally rung alarm bells for Bangladesh garment industry as latest official data reveals that the country’s export earnings in October was $868 million, posting nearly 8 per cent decline from that in the same month of 2007.
The monthly data released by the Export Promotion Bureau was a blow to the industry as it had experienced 45 per cent export growth in September, 22 per cent in August and 71 per cent in July, industry observers said.
The EPB sums up export data on periodic accumulation. So, it showed that the July-October export earnings grew by 31 per cent from that in the corresponding period of last year.
The periodic data for July-September also showed a declining trend, recording the accumulative export growth at 42 per cent.
Bangladesh Knitwear Manufacturers and Exporters’ Association president Fazlul Hoque said, ‘The October report clearly rings alarm bells that global economic recession has started affecting Bangladesh’s export front.’
‘We are sensing hurdles everywhere – buyers are delaying order placements or deferring shipment orders,’ he said describing the present state of business.
Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters’ Association vice-president Shahidul Islam however showed reluctance to see the scenario as an impact of recession.
‘It is true that there is a recessionary mood among the importers, but we have to recall that due to the Eid celebrations, shipments in October had been less than the usual or portions of shipments due for that month had been made in the previous month.’
The Centre for Policy Dialogue executive director Mustafizur Rahman said October’s decline in export earnings during the recession period should make Bangladeshi exporters concerned.
He however said the apparel industry should not be panicked yet, as a single month’s decline should not be assessed as the bottom-line.
‘The government and the industry need to get ready for fighting recession times,’ suggested Mustafiz widely acclaimed as the top international trade analyst having specialisation on export-oriented garment industry.
Mustafiz suggests the government and industry to closely monitor the evolving realities in the recession-hit western market.
‘The government should prepare stimulating package for garment exporters as its counterparts in China and India have already done,’ said Mustafiz. ‘The exporters need to sharpen their competitiveness, put efforts on more value-addition and develop their marketing skills.’
BKMEA’s Fazlul Hoque emphasised that the government should not waste a single day more and should call all stakeholders, including industry representatives, for analysing the market trends and preparing action plans for facing any probable crisis time.
According to the EPB report July-October garment exports grew by 32 per cent to $3,902 million – knitwear grew by 37 per cent to $2,094 million and woven or cut and sew apparels by 27 per cent to $1,808 million.
The report shows the export earnings from frozen foods increased in the period by 15 per cent to $204 million, home textile 26 per cent to $112 million, footwear 48 per cent to $70, and terry towel 26 per cent to $45 million.
Among the products of whose on export earnings faced significant declines in the period are raw jute (16 per cent to $43 million), jute goods (7 per cent to $102 million) and finished leather (16 per cent to $71 million).