Garment accessories offer bright prospects
Bangladesh has turned into a major source for garment accessories, as direct export of such items increased by 66.67 percent year-on-year to $1 billion in the last fiscal year.
Once a net importer of garment accessories mainly from Hong Kong and China, Bangladesh is now a lucrative source of such items, with spiralling demand coming from international buyers of many garment-making nations, including the African ones.
A new entrant making direct shipments to Chinese-dominated global markets, local manufacturers of Bangladesh have been exporting the integral parts of apparel items to Vietnam, Cambodia, Myanmar, Sri Lanka, South Africa and Malaysia.
Accessories like buttons, zippers, labels, price tags and washing instructions are used in making finished garment products.
If a T-shirt is sold at $5, the share of accessories is 15 percent, industry insiders said. At present, nearly 1,600 factories are producing the accessories. Some are directly exporting to other countries.
Earnings from apparel accessories hit $600 million in 2015-16 and $300 million in the previous year, according to Bangladesh Garments Accessories and Packaging Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGAPMEA).
"The prospect of direct accessories export is very bright," said Shahadat Hossain Kiron, chairman of Dekko Group, a leading garment exporter.
"I started exporting the items as some buyers have made it mandatory for garment makers in countries outside of Bangladesh to use accessories produced in my factory."
For instance, buyers placing work orders in factories in Myanmar, Sri Lanka or Vietnam want to use accessories produced in Bangladeshi factories, he said. "In the last fiscal year, I exported garment accessories worth $50 lakh directly to many factories in different countries."
The direct export of garment accessories is relatively a new business for Kiron who supplies garment items to C&A, M&S, H&M, Tommy Hilfiger and Next.
He had previously been producing accessories only for use in his own garment factory.
The total investment in the accessory making sector is over Tk 30,000 crore now, said Md Abdul Kader Khan, president of BGAPMEA, the accessory makers' platform.
The number of workers in this sub-sector is 4.5 lakh and it plays a vital role for the garment sector.
Many of the garment makers used to miss strict lead-times due to delays in arrival of the accessories, he said.
The garment exporters can now ship the goods on time thanks to the availability of the accessories in the local market, Kiron said.
Although the country has been producing a lion's share of the accessories, 5 to 10 percent of the items still need to be imported from China, Khan said.
Garment accessories include items used in lingerie, which very expensive and sensitive to the skin, he said.
The accessory makers have been supplying items like elastics, poly bags, cartons and hangers to some emerging sectors like frozen foods and fish, pharmaceuticals, ceramics, toys, leather goods, jute goods, crockery and ceramics.
So the contribution of accessories in total export of $35 billion is $6.7 billion, Khan said.