Even as I sit to pen this editorial, it gives me immense pleasure to note that true to my gut feelings, apparel export from Bangladesh has made a rebound in August.
As a keen observer of the industry for last so many years, I saw it coming and coming soon. Finally, it proved correct; after months of long and protracted slump, garment export growth turned positive in August.
According to figures compiled by the BGMEA from National Board of Revenue data, in the month of August (1-30 August) this year, export earnings from RMG stood at US $ 3.24 billion from what was US $ 2.24 billion in the same period of August in 2019.
Meanwhile, as per the provisional data of the Export Promotion Bureau, readymade garment export in August 2020, however, grew by 2.57 per cent to US $ 2.47 billion from US $ 2.40 billion in the same month of 2019. Despite the difference in the figures (from two different sources), that there has been growth in apparel exports in August is obvious.
Bangladesh’s apparel exports declined severely in the March-May period of 2020 witnessing a 54.79 per cent fall compared to the same period last year. However, with brands and retailers getting back to work and with reinstatement of the cancelled orders, apparel exports made a turnaround of sorts in July by registering earnings of US $ 3.2 billion, which though 14.1 per cent more than the target set by the Commerce Ministry for July, was less than that registered in the same period last year.
In July last year, apparel exports stood at US $ 3.3 billion.
However, having said so, I agree with the BGMEA President that instead of year-on-year-based monthly figures, a 6-month average would be a better depiction of the existing scenario. What makes the case even stronger for Bangladesh is the fact that despite the adverse impact of the coronavirus pandemic, Bangladesh continues to be amongst the top sourcing destinations for global brands and retailers, as has been maintained by a report of QIMA – a leading supply chain compliance solutions provider.
According to the report, which was based on a survey (Evolution of Sourcing in 2020) carried out in July 2020, and which tries to analyse the evolution of global sourcing in response to the ongoing pandemic, the US-China trade tensions and other disruptions to global supply chains, apart from Vietnam, Bangladesh and India, are still among popular alternative sourcing options.
The revival of Bangladesh’s apparel exports is also perhaps evidenced from the fact that business at the country’s prime gateway, Chittagong Port, has attained near normalcy after 5 long months amid the ongoing pandemic.
According to port officials, an average of 4,000 to 4,200 containers are being delivered daily (at the time of writing this piece), which is similar to that in the same period last year, which is a positive development to say the least. So even as we soak in that sense of joy and excitement on account of the export turnaround, it would be pertinent not to lose view of the bigger picture, and continue to build on the momentum gained while also try and exploit the new and emerging opportunities that would present as people and entities get back to business the world over.
Hoping that Bangladesh would continue to better the export performance in the coming months; all the best to the industry!