Export hits all-time high of $52b

Exports from Bangladesh hit an all-time high of $52.08 billion in the just-concluded fiscal year, giving much-needed breathing space to the country amid ongoing volatility in the foreign exchange regime, official figures showed yesterday.

This is the first-time overseas sales went past the $50-billion mark, comfortably overshooting the target of $43.5 billion set for the fiscal year of 2021-22.

In FY22, receipts were up 34.38 per cent compared to a year ago, when exporters brought home $38.76 billion, according to the Export Promotion Bureau (EPB).

Alone in June, the shipment stood at $4.908 billion, up 37.19 per cent year-on-year, and the highest ever on record in a single month. The previous highest was registered in December last year when the earnings stood at $4.907 billion.

The record export earnings would give some comfort to the government struggling to retain macroeconomic stability amid blistering imports bills caused by higher commodity prices globally, runaway consumer prices, falling foreign currency reserves, remittance and the value of the local currency and a weak revenue collection.

As usual, apparel shipment, which accounts for about 85 per cent of the national earnings from international sources, was the biggest contributor to the highest export shipment.

Some other sectors such as leather and leather goods, jute and jute goods and home textiles also chipped in, and each raked in more than $1 billion.

Garment shipment clocked 35.47 per cent year-on-year growth in FY22, netting $42.61 billion. Of the sum, $23.21 billion came from knitwear shipment, up 36.88 per cent. Woven garment shipment grew 33.82 per cent to $19.39 billion, EPB data showed.

Home textiles fetched $1.62 billion, an increase of 43.28 per cent from a year ago, as demand grew significantly since people still spend more time indoors than in the past as the coronavirus is yet to be eliminated.

The earnings from the shipment of leather and leather goods, often cited as one of the most potential sectors after garments, stood at $1.24 billion, registering an annual growth of 32.23 per cent.

Jute and jute goods exports, however, declined 2.91 per cent despite generating $1.12 billion. And exporters hope the sector would soon return to black as demand for the products made from the natural fibre is on the rise.

Both Faruque Hassan, president of the Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA), and Mustafizur Rahman, a distinguished fellow of the Centre for Policy Dialogue, described the FY22 export receipts as a landmark for Bangladesh.

"The important thing is that more than $8 billion came from the sectors other than garments, indicating that product diversification is taking place gradually," Rahman said.

The noted economist thinks there is ample scope for Bangladesh to diversify its product baskets even within the garment sector.

"We should explore this to continue the robust growth of export earnings."

According to Rahman, the total earnings from merchandise shipment were high as international retailers and brands had to raise the prices of the products sourced from Bangladesh by taking into account the high cost of raw materials.

For instance, the cotton price rose by 51 per cent last year.

The earnings, however, are volume-driven, not value-driven, said the economist.

"It is very important how much of the export earnings we can keep in the country."

In order to maintain the robust export growth, Bangladesh needs to explore non-cotton garment items, and the government should provide incentives to the goods made from the artificial raw material with a view to encouraging exporters to capture a fair share of the $700 billion global market, Rahman added.

In 2015, the BGMEA set a garment export goal of $50 billion by 2021 to mark the 50th anniversary of Bangladesh's independence.

"But we could not achieve the goal because of Covid-19. However, we are expecting to touch the milestone in 2023," said Hassan, urging the government to keep supporting the garment sector so that it can retain the growth momentum.

Md Saiful Islam, president of the Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce and Industry, hopes the export would hit $80 billion by 2024.

If the government can make the central effluent treatment plant in the Savar Tannery Industrial Estate and local exporters can obtain certification from the Leather Working Group, the global body for compliance and environmental certification in the leather and leather goods sector, Bangladesh's leather sector will perform strongly in the near future, said the entrepreneur.

Farm products, frozen and live fish, terry towels, footwear, furniture, bicycle, pharmaceuticals and cotton yarn also fared well in the global market in the just-concluded fiscal year.