As per reports, even though among all the fibre crops cotton is the second most important cash crop in Bangladesh, only around 2-3 per cent of domestic requirement is fulfilled through the local production, while the remaining 96-97 per cent is imported from overseas.
Most yarn spinners in Bangladesh reportedly source around 70 per cent of their cotton requirements from Central Asia, mainly Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan. Ten per cent of imports come from the United States, and the remaining 20 per cent from India, Pakistan, the Syrian Arab Republic, Australia and various African countries.
This dependence on cotton is now having an impact on the country’s readymade garment sector it seems!
With the increase of RMG export over the decades, the consumption of cotton has also been on the rise. As per data from BGMEA, about 74.14 per cent of the US $ 34.13 billion locally manufactured RMG items exported in the last fiscal year (FY ’19) were made of cotton while as per US official data cited by United States Fashion Industry Association (USFIA) in its latest study report launched in July, cotton trousers and cotton shirts have accounted for nearly 60 per cent of total US apparel imports from Bangladesh in the past 10 years.
Such high dependency on cotton-based garment items, experts feel, is a barrier to the country’s future growth potentials.
In fiscal 2018-19, Bangladesh imported 6.9 million bales of cotton from the world to meet its demand. The country annually spends US $ 3.5 billion in importing cotton.
But when the world is moving towards manmade fibres (MMF), which also offers scope enough for value addition, how feasible is it to stick to cotton-based garments majorly?
“The use of artificial fibres is not remarkable and is not currently reflected in data, it would take some years to reveal the real scenario,” maintained former president of Bangladesh Knitwear Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BKMEA) Fazlul Hoque, while adding that use of artificial fibres or MMF is gradually increasing and it would take some years to reveal the real scenario.
According to Bangladesh Textile Mills Association (BTMA), the import of MMF like polyester staple, viscose and tencel, is on the rise following the rising demand amid changes in the global fashion trend (the country imported 78,208 tonnes of polyester staple fibre in 2016, up from 51,729 tonnes in 2014; the import of viscose staple fibre was recorded at 29,146 tonnes in 2016, which was 18,115 tonnes in 2014 and the import of tencel stood at 5,034 tonnes in 2016).
Over the past decade, Bangladesh’s export has grown from US $ 12.34 billion to US $ 34.13 billion and it is quite obvious to expect that the sector could have grown more matured in terms of product and material diversity, maintained BGMEA President Dr. Rubana Huq speaking to the media.
“Considering the consumption is inclining to MMF, and the scope of value addition is higher in that segment, the overconcentration on cotton-based apparels is not only a major drawback for us to diversify our product categories, but also a clear reflection of declining price/value addition of our products,” she underlined.
Given the existing scenario, moving from cotton to MMF perhaps would do more good than harm for Bangladesh, more so considering the fact that its closest competitor Vietnam is also moving significantly towards MMF (55 per cent MMF is used) significantly, for business sustainability and relevance.