Exports slip 11pc in July
Exports declined in July as reduced working days for Eid-ul-Azha and coronavirus containment measures affected the production and shipment of most of the items, including clothing, the main foreign currency earner.
Export-oriented factories were shut for 13 days because of the Eid festival and the strict nationwide lockdown in the first month of the fiscal year.
After the three-day festival, the government enforced the curb on movement since July 23 to rein in the soaring cases of infections from the deadly disease.
Export-oriented industries, however, were allowed to reopen from August 1.
July brought $3.47 billion in export receipts, down 11 per cent year-on-year, data from the Export Promotion Bureau showed.
Shipment of apparel, which accounted for 83 per cent of the total earnings in the month, dropped. Knitwear and woven items declined 11 per cent year-on-year to $2.88 billion combined from $3.24 billion a year ago.
Exporters say the dip is temporary, and the shipment would pick up from August as they have enough orders from retailers in the European and American markets, the leading destination of Bangladesh's readymade garments.
"We expect a growth from August onward unless there is a lockdown," said Md Shahidullah Azim, vice-president of the Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association.
"We have a good flow of orders. And our total exports have already crossed Vietnam's in the first five months of 2021."
Vietnam raced past Bangladesh to be the second-largest apparel exporter globally in 2020 as the Southeast Asian country managed to keep the coronavirus pandemic in control and allowed factories to operate.
In July, woven exports from Bangladesh declined 18 per cent year-on-year. Knitwear shipment decreased 5 per cent.
"There is nothing to worry about," said Md Fazlul Hoque, managing director of Plummy Fashions Ltd, a green knitwear manufacturer.
He said Bangladesh shipped clothing items worth $100 million daily, and the exports were affected because of the lockdown.
Hoque, also a former president of the Bangladesh Knitwear Manufacturers and Exporters Association, said demand for woven garments fell as people mostly stayed indoors in the export markets because of the pandemic.
July was also a gloomy month for jute and jute goods makers and exporters, who fetched $1.16 billion in the last fiscal year, the highest on record.
The shipment of the eco-friendly fibre and its products slumped 41 per cent to $60.7 million from $103 million a year ago as the overseas sales of jute yarn, the main export item from the sector, were pummeled.
SK Nasir Uddin, chairman of the Bangladesh Jute Spinners Association, linked the fall to the declining demand after the price of raw jute hit a record Tk 5,000 per maund earlier this year.
He said the export soared in the last fiscal year mainly in terms of value, which reflected the high price of the natural fibre, not in terms of volume. The price of raw jute rose because of the hoarding and a lack of proper planning and enforcement by the authorities, he added.
"Steps should be taken so that no mill can stock jute of more than two-month of its installed capacity.
Furthermore, rules should be enforced so that none can sell wet raw jute and hoard more than 500 kilograms of jute," said Nasir Uddin, also the chairman of Akij Group.
"A coordinated effort is needed to bring about discipline in the sector."
Two other major earners—fresh and processed agricultural products as well as frozen and live fish—also suffered losses.
Agricultural products, whose takings hit $1 billion for the first time in the last fiscal year, saw a decline of 3 per cent, while frozen fish exports dropped 13 per cent.
Leather and leather goods, another major foreign currency earner, posted gains marginally.
Buoyed by the shipment in leather products and leather, the sector's total receipts were 1 per cent higher at $90.5 million in July, which was $89.9 million in the same month last year.