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Bangladesh’s apparel business continues to depend on five major markets

Mohammad Nurul Alam

Bangladesh’s apparel export has continued to account for half of its business on five developed market bases and faces challenges to meet export targets. This is also a message to the exporters that Bangladesh’s aim to shift towards a diversified market and products over the last decades has not bought the expected result.

Bangladesh's apparel business continues to depend on five major markets

Bangladesh exports about $29 billion worth of apparel products in the last fiscal year of 2022-23 to five countries – the United States, Germany, the United Kingdom, Spain, and France. The export makes up more than 52 percent of Bangladesh’s annual receipts of $55.56 billion, data shows from the Export Promotion Bureau.

The EPB report mentions US has taken the pack with a 17% share while Germany, the United Kingdom, Spain, and France accounted for 12.74 percent, 9.55 percent, 6.62 percent, and 5.92 percent of the earnings in FY23.

According to data the five developed countries have been the top export destinations for Bangladesh and about 50 percent of the country’s export receipts are on average and for at least one decade the report shows the same.

Due to a lack of diversification of products, the country has not been able to explore new markets and so export earnings have not increased either opined industry expert.

Bangladesh's apparel business continues to depend on five major markets

Md Safeyee, Country Manager, Trevin. Former Country Manager of Carrefour, Kmart/Sears said – In this tough time, the Bangladesh textile and apparel industry has incredibly stood up to the challenge and added new feathers to the current product portfolio. It is high time that decision-makers should invest more in R&D for product diversification and cope with upcoming buying trends. RMG manufacturers focus more on sportswear, activewear, and high-end goods.

Bangladesh is still not able to come up in line with Global Fashion and go for diversified products and the reality is the country remains in concept development but not in remarkable progress.

Rehnuma Chowdhury, Managing Director, Fifth Alliance Global Trading Ltd. expressed his views that – The global fashion industry is highly competitive, and manufacturers in countries such as China, Vietnam, and India have traditionally been more focused on producing higher-end, more specialized garments. As a result, Bangladesh has faced some competition in this area and has struggled to establish itself as a major player in the production of more specialized garments.

A collaboration of efforts to explore new markets and network building is necessary to come out from excessive dependence on five major markets.

According to Rehnuma Chowdhury, Managing Director, Fifth Alliance Global Trading Ltd. – We need to engage with fashion entrepreneurs to promote collaboration and knowledge-sharing. By building relationships with local businesses and entrepreneurs, we can help create a supportive network for innovation and diversification.

An industry expert says India and China are two countries that can offer huge opportunities to Bangladesh and their vast markets worth around 2.8 billion people collectively. Because India was the seventh-largest importer from Bangladesh in FY23 as it purchased products worth $2.1 billion, up from $1.7 billion a year ago.

Abdullah Al Mamun, Director, Abed Textile, Vice President BTMA expresses his views on diversification – The present worldwide trade situation is reminding us of diversification of product and market. We must identify and make unique products of various cultures and traditional clothes. Because recently in a seminar at Calcutta, one delegation of Bhutan asked me if we could make traditional clothing that wear people in Bhutan. I think the query is a big call for us to explore new markets for traditional clothing in the Middle East, North Africa, or South Africa. So, this is the best time for us to find a new product lineup and market, not only focus on the traditional EU or US market. We must develop an understanding of capacity and improve efficiency and innovation.

The energy crisis is also important to take into consideration regarding Bangladesh’s export to new markets. Because a new market requires a new product, and a new product is only possible when an uninterrupted power supply can be continued.

Mahbub Khan Himel, Director of Mithela Textile Industries said, every month we export around 6-7 mn fabrics but due to the gas crisis, we only export 2 mn.  Spinning, weaving, dyeing-printing-finishing industries of Bangladesh are run based on captive power generation, where gas is the main fuel, added Mr. Himel.

The exploration of new markets can be successful for Bangladesh if the government takes necessary steps such as the development of export infrastructure, negotiation of free trade agreements with new countries, and development of new trading partners to provide sustainable growth to exports of goods and services.

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