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Merchandise exports exceed $5b for 4 straight months

Arifur Rahaman Tuhin
02 Apr 2024 23:03:12 | Update: 02 Apr 2024 23:18:46
Merchandise exports exceed $5b for 4 straight months

Bangladesh’s merchandise export earnings have bounced back in the third quarter (January-March) of this FY24, and the country has been able to retain more than $5 billion in earnings for four consecutive months, after a depressive October-December quarter in terms of growth.

The outstanding performance has reignited hope of boosting the country’s overall export growth, amid global and domestic economic headwinds.

According to the Export Promotion Bureau’s (EPB) monthly provisional data, Bangladesh secured $5.1 billion export earnings this March, which is 9.88 per cent higher than the figure recorded in the same month last FY.

Besides, the country earned $5.19 billion, $5.72 billion, and $5.3 billion in the months of February, January and December respectively.

Thanks to the outstanding performance, the country posted a 4.39 per cent year-on-year (YoY) growth in the first three quarters (July-March) of this fiscal year, and earned $43.55 billion from merchandise exports.

This figure, however, is 5.86 per cent lower than the commerce ministry’s $46.26 billion target for the period.

During this period, only the readymade garment and agricultural products sector was able to retain growth, and almost all other sectors’ performance are disappointing, according to the EPB data. 

Apparel sector, occupying the lion's share of exports, contributed 85.42 per cent to the total $43.55 billion export earnings.

Speaking to The Business Post, Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA) President Faruque Hassan said, “Last one and half years were tougher for us, and we posted a year-on-year negative export earnings for a significant number of single months.

“However, we secured a remarkable year-on-year growth in the third quarter of this FY, which is good news for us, as well as for Bangladesh.”

He added, “The government should adopt proper policy, and proper implementation for the export sector, especially for the non-RMG, to achieve a sustainable growth as the LDC graduation is drawing near.


RMG exports up 5.53%

According to the EPB, the RMG sector witnessed a 5.53 per cent YoY growth in the first nine months of this FY and earned $37.2 billion. The figure, however, is 4.62 per cent lower than the commerce ministry’s $39 billion export target for the period.

Among the figures, the knitwear items contributed $21.01 billion, and posted a 9.79 per cent year-on-year growth, while woven items contributed $16.19 billion, which is 0.49 per cent higher than the same period of last FY.

Industry insiders say in recent times, inflation in their key markets – the western countries – is coming down to a tolerable level, and brands managed to secure big sales in recent festivals. The pressure of excessive inventory at the buyers' end has eased.

The buyers are now knocking at Bangladeshi exporters’ doors, and the trend of incoming orders is already on the rise.

Newly elected BGMEA Director and TAD Group Managing Director Md Ashikur Rahman Tuhin said, “We are receiving a significant number of orders from western markets, and buyers are pressuring us to maintain lead time.

“We now need an uninterrupted gas and electricity supply, as well as policy stability, to cash in on this opportunity, and we urge the government to ensure these facilities.”


Non-RMG earnings

According to the latest EPB data, the agriculture and fish sectors — which are considered primary commodities — posted a 0.61 per cent year-on-year negative earnings growth in the first three quarters of FY24, and earned $1.03 billion.

Of the total, frozen and live fish sector earnings dropped by 13.66 per cent to $299 million, and agricultural goods sector earnings rose by 5.6 per cent to $715.84 million.

Meanwhile, the leather and leather goods sector continued negative earnings growth, and earned $794.19 million during this period, which is 13.65 per cent lower compared year-on-year.

Another potential sector, jute and jute goods also followed the negative earnings trend, and income dipped by 5.6 per cent to $659.54 million when compared year-on-year.

In the first nine months of FY24, home textile sector earnings dropped by 25.98 per cent to $636.53 million year-on-year.  However, earnings from the non-leather footwear sector rose by 7.67 per cent to $385.73 million.

Tajin Leather Corporation Managing Director Md Ashikur Rahman said, “Leather and leather goods could be one of the key export earners for Bangladesh, as 95 per cent raw materials used by the industry are available in Bangladesh.

“But due to a lack of LWG certification, mainly because of environmental issues, the sector is shrinking, but no one cares about this. This is unfortunate for the sector’s entrepreneurs as well as the country.”