Bangladesh’s single month export earnings in April 2021 grew by over 500 per cent to US $ 3.13 billion, thanks to reopening of major importing countries’ economies that helped the recovery of readymade garment shipments even as figures from the country’s Export Promotion Bureau (EPB) underlined that Bangladesh fetched US $ 520 million in April 2020, with many apparel exporters and experts terming the single month growth as ‘unusual’.
Further, Bangladesh’s overall export earnings during the first ten months of the current fiscal year (FY) 2020-21, stood at US $ 32.07 billion, marking an 8.74 per cent growth compared to that of the corresponding period of last fiscal even as the readymade garment sector fetched US $ 26 billion in proceeds during the first ten months of FY ’21, marking a 6.24 per cent growth but missed the target set for the period by 6.16 per cent.
Meanwhile, speaking to the media, Faruque Hassan, the newly-elected President of the Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA), said, “We have not returned to normalcy yet and the rebound of garments items has just begun. We hope the export of apparels to the European markets will get a boost by September,” while adding that export to the US market was performing strongly, and going on to highlight that the global consumption of apparels has declined by more than 10 per cent over the last year because of the drastic fall in income of the people because of COVID-19.
This has affected the prices of garment items significantly although the cost of production has increased because of the higher prices of the raw materials and freight charges, said the BGMEA President while adding that the overall prices of garment items may go up to some extent in the next few months because of higher prices of fabrics.
However, notwithstanding the rebound in exports, it is to be noted here that even if the RMG sector fetched US $ 26 billion in proceeds during the first ten months of FY ’21, marking a 6.24 per cent growth, there was a stark difference as far as performance of knitwear and woven are concerned as Bangladesh earned US $ 13.99 billion from knitwear exports in the July-April of FY ’21, registering a 15.34 per cent growth, which was US $ 12.13 billion in the corresponding period of last fiscal even as woven garment exports, declined by 2.71 per cent to US $ 12 billion during the period, from what was US $ 12.34 billion during the corresponding period of last fiscal.
Now, if industry insiders and experts are to be believed, with people at majority of Bangladesh’s export destinations staying put at homes, there is rising demand for comfortable knitwear garments.
The pandemic-driven ‘New Normal’ has altered the apparel and fashion industries, as demand for woven garments has decreased while demand for knitted garments has continued to rise said industry insiders while adding that with people preferring to stay at home, overall, knitted garments such as T-shirts, track pants, shorts and athleisure were selling more than woven products.
In the meantime, apparel makers – both knitwear and woven – have, however, reportedly accepted the fact that they will have to do business at the lowest profit margin if they want their production units to keep running even as some manufacturers reportedly opted for running factories at lower capacity, or to suspend production instead of compromising on prices.
“Even with the recurring losses, I will not take any order below the breakeven cost. We prefer giving our workers some rest rather than awarding foreign buyers cheap clothes,” reportedly stated Fazlee Shamim Ehsan, Chief Executive Officer at Narayanganj based Fatullah Apparels even as Fazlul Hoque, the Managing Director of Plummy Fashions Limited reportedly said knitwear garment makers were not getting a decent price as yarn prices have on an average gone up by 60 per cent to 70 per cent.
Explaining the current situation, a garment exporter averred that the shipment of knitwear items was increasing as people were spending more time indoors and because of the pandemic, the demand for woven garment such as formal shirts and trousers have fallen even as woven exports declined by more than 10 per cent during most of the months in the last one year while April saw the lowest decline during the period, which according to industry insiders, is an indication that the segment is rebounding, thanks to gradual reopening of stores and offices.
It may be mentioned here that even in March, Bangladesh’s overall exports made a sort of recovery on the back of strong performance by the knitwear and jute and jute goods as Bangladesh fetched US $ 3076 million, up by a 12.59 percent year-on-year in March while
in the July-March period of the current fiscal year, the overall earnings from merchandise export was US $ 28938.35 million.
During the period, the export of woven items declined 10.63 per cent to US $ 10,833.74 million even as shipment of woven items has been declining since June last year as many people have been cooped up indoors and many worked from home because of the pandemic, reportedly maintained some EPB officials then.
Going by the present trend, it appears that it would take some time before woven apparels also start performing well even as in April, when woven products is said to have registered the lowest decline during the period, is definitely something to look up to, which, as has been pointed out by some industry people, could be an indication that the segment is rebounding.
With more and more stores and offices opening up in the Western world, all one can hope for is some better performance by the woven products in the days to come.