Bangladesh apparel industry has been experiencing a good export performance of late, thanks to the coming in of new work orders from the global buyers even as apparel exports in September 2021 increased by 41.66 per cent.
According to the country’s Export Promotion Bureau or EPB, Bangladesh’s overall export earnings in September of the current financial year of 2021-22 grew by 38 per cent or US $ 1.14 billion year-on-year from US $ 3.01 billion in the same month of the past fiscal year even as apparel exports in September 2021 increased by 41.66 per cent or more than US $ 1 billion to US $ 3.42 billion from US $ 2.41 billion in the same month of 2020 while export earnings in July-September period of FY ’22 increased by 11.37 per cent to US $ 11.02 billion from what was US $ 9.89 billion in the same period of FY ’21.
“Export earnings from RMG grew by more than US $ 1 billion in September as both the unit prices of products and the export orders increased in recent times,” claimed Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA) President Faruque Hassan even as apparel exporters maintained improving pandemic conditions in the export strongholds helped boost demand for garments, which got a further shot in the arm following closure of factories in competing countries due to the pandemic, which compelled many buyers to shift focus on Bangladesh, more so with the festive season in the West, just round the corner.
Meanwhile, as per media reports, Bangladesh’s textile and garment makers and exporters have reportedly called upon the Government as well to quickly simplify the country’s export-import procedures as work orders are in a rising trend even as the apparel manufacturers sought simplification of the import of yarn, cotton, industrial raw materials and chemicals through land ports to save time and money.
“We requested the Commerce Minister and the Commerce Secretary to take immediate actions to resolve the crises as we have a lot of work orders from international retailers and brands,” said Faruque Hassan, adding, “We need a lot of raw materials like yarn and fabrics as we are getting several work orders from buyers. It is very difficult to release goods from the ports, especially from land ports and airports, to be used in the industries,” even as the entrepreneurs underlined the rules of business need to be simplified so that manufacturers can easily import goods and comply with the strict lead-time set by international retailers and brands.
This is an opportunity for Bangladesh as international retailers and brands have been coming up with more work orders with the improvement of the pandemic and reopening of economies worldwide, especially in the West, further underlined the BGMEA chair, adding, “Usually, such an opportunity does not come for any nation in a time of crisis…”
Given the existing scenario, where garment makers are looking at all possible ways to cater successfully to the orders that are coming in thick and fast, has the same impacted employment scenario in the garment sector in some way as well, after all one would need additional manpower to handle the new work orders and perhaps more so after the so-called large-scale retrenching of garment workers during the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic, when many garment makers shed manpower and cut down production capacities as hardly much orders were coming by from the global buyers.
It may be mentioned here that consequent to large-scale order cancellations by global buyers in the aftermath of the pandemic when many small and medium-sized factories had to shut down operations in want of work orders, tens of thousands of garment makers have allegedly been retrenched.
Manufacturing units had to close down with several foreign buyers cancelling work orders and renegotiating and cutting down prices even as according to Bangladesh Poshak Shramik Trade Union Federation (Bangladesh Garment Workers Trade Union Federation), around 22,000 workers lost their jobs in the port city of Chittagong alone last year either due to manpower curtailment or outright factory closures.
However, the scene seems to be completely different now; and if latest reports are to be believed, many garment makers have already embarked on hiring manpower as they look forward to scale up production again given the export rebound and pouring in of new work orders, which would get a further impetus in the coming days.
Meanwhile, speaking to the media, BGMEA Vice-President Shahidullah Azim reportedly maintained that flow of work orders has increased by around 10-15 per cent this year compared to 2019 and as per some estimates, due to the increased work orders, recruitment of workers would increase by around 5-7 per cent, meaning that the RMG sector would create more than 200,000 jobs even though there is reportedly no Government statistics on the RMG factories and workers in the country.
However, if the statistics of the MAPPED in Bangladesh and BGMEA’s projection are considered, the apparel industry may recruit somewhere around 133,000-186,000 workers in the coming days even if it may be mentioned here that there are around 675 factories out of 3,384 which are not members either of BGMEA or BKMEA, which means the projection on the new recruits would be downgraded.
Meanwhile, as per media reports, the Chittagong-based Denim Expert has already recruited around 350 workers and is in the process of onboarding 350 more new seamstresses, following the increased work orders.
“Every day I receive phone calls from the brand and buyers. We did not have to bear with such a volume of work orders in last five years. However, shortage of workers now seems a big crisis. We cannot find the required number of workers. That’s why we cannot expand our production capacity,” reportedly maintained Managing Director of Denim Expert Mostafiz Uddin then even as interacting with a news daily, Vice-President of the Bangladesh Knitwear Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BKMEA), Mohammad Hatem, on his part, reportedly said, “The buyers are issuing work orders with shorter lead time. Enhancement of workforce is due for meeting the production target within the limited time frame. The situation demands additional workers (5 per cent of the existing workforce),” while going on to reportedly add further that majority of apparel manufacturing units have hanged recruitment notice at their very entrances already.
Many apparel exporters also added that the EU countries and USA have regained normalcy after large-scale vaccination and the US and European buyers were issuing work orders–like the pre-pandemic period–to cash on the demands as people start coming back to retail stores and the festival season starts knocking at the door.
Going by the facts and figures as well as the views s shared by the industry people, it would not be wrong to maintain that increased work orders and improved exports are definitely having a positive impact on employment generation and if the present trend continues, many more workers, fresh as well as the ones furloughed at the peak of the pandemic, can now hope to get gainfully once more!