‘Coordinated efforts needed to diversify export market’
To diversify export destinations, Bangladesh needs to take up a comprehensive plan and coordinate efforts focusing on every country that bears potential, said Md Fazlul Hoque, former president of the Bangladesh Knitwear Manufacturers and Exporters Association.
The country needs to continue with the endeavours until all barriers are removed, he said during an interview with The Daily Star.
The private sector also needs to have the relevant mindset for facing challenges of a new market and go on to explore beyond their comfort zones, and here big exporters can play a major role, he said.
Five countries -- the United States, Germany, the United Kingdom, Spain and France -- sourced products worth $29 billion in the last fiscal year of 2022-23, showed data from the Export Promotion Bureau.
This accounted for more than 52 per cent of Bangladesh's annual receipts of $55.56 billion.
Till date, a number of steps have been taken to diversify export destinations and reduce dependency on a handful of markets. However, most of the steps are limited to paper, said Hoque.
"To ensure market diversification, it is important to stick to the efforts of breaking the ice by hammering," he said.
"We have huge potential to increase our export earnings in Chinese and Indian markets as these two are big markets and they know about Bangladesh," said Hoque, who is also managing director of Plummy Fashions.
One of Plummy Fashions' apparel manufacturing facilities scored the highest points to win a LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certification in the platinum category.
"To grasp a new destination, there is a challenge that the overall image of Bangladesh is not as high as our competitiveness. Whatever image is spread among them is more or less negative to the country," he said.
For this, the government and the private sector both are responsible, he added.
Apart from China and India, Japan also bears potential for further growth as a market as the exports are almost stagnant up to a certain point.
Now, the government should formulate a concrete plan to expand exports to these countries along with those in the Middle East, Hoque said.
The Middle East is a familiar place for Bangladesh as people here travel to countries in the region for many reasons, including as a part of their religious beliefs.
So, it may be easy to study the products and demands of the market, he added.
Plummy Fashions, one of the leading knitwear exporters in Bangladesh, is now trying to export products to South American countries.
Eastern Europe and South American countries as well as Russia and its neighbouring countries should be targeted later as export destinations, said Hoque.
Russia and its neighbouring countries are now facing problems for the war between Russia and Ukraine while South American countries are relatively far away so travelling to those countries is comparatively tough, he clarified.
"If the government targets a country and works for two years continuously and take some steps to increase exports, it will be possible to make exports convenient for the entrepreneurs," he said.
The steps should include bilateral meetings, detection of problems and effective solutions, analysis of market-specific products and variations in products.
The government should employ market-specific experts to guide exporters properly, Hoque added.
Europe and the US are easy markets for exporters as they are now familiar with them. The big exporters also do not want to go beyond their comfort zones, according to Hoque.
When an exporter explores a new market, they face some pains but most entrepreneurs do not want to face those, he said.
Here, the big entrepreneurs have a responsibility to go there, become familiar with the processes and bring ease to it for others, he added.