Leather goods export exceeds pre-pandemic level
Exports of leather and leather products from Bangladesh exceeded the pre-pandemic level in the first quarter of the current fiscal year as Western economies reopened following extended coronavirus pandemic-induced closures, pushing up demand.
Manufacturers shipped leather and leather products worth $271.34 million from July to September, up 21 per cent from $225.15 million in the same period last fiscal year, data from the Export Promotion Bureau (EPB) showed.
The receipts were 6.66 per cent higher than $254.39 million recorded in the same three-month period of FY2019-20.
Exporters fetched $324.62 million in the July-September quarter in FY2017-18, the highest in five years.
But the shipment declined in the following years for a loss of consumers' appetite for leather goods and a lack of environmental compliance by local firms. The pandemic hit the sector hard, prompting the exports to plummet.
In the first quarter of FY22, leather exports rose 33.29 per cent, leather products 33.34 per cent, and leather footwear 13.72 per cent, EPB data showed.
"The export performance of the leather sector is better in the first quarter of the fiscal year compared to the last fiscal year as shipment increased to the US and Japan. However, the export to European countries is yet to pick up," said Syed Nasim Manzur, managing director of Apex Footwear Ltd.
The exporters who sell products in the North American markets posted tremendous growth in the last quarter. The trend may continue in the coming days, he said.
According to the entrepreneur, manufacturers worked hard during the pandemic to explore new markets and protect factories and employees. This led to the discovery of some non-traditional markets such as Russia and Morocco.
"This is helping the export rise," Manzur said.
Non-leather footwear exporters fared better throughout the pandemic than those involved in exporting leather products as the demand for footwear items made from the low-priced synthetic increased remarkably in the global market.
Manzur believes the sector's recovery would accelerate as the economic activities resumed in the western countries.
Mohammed Nazmul Hassan Sohail, managing director of Leatherex Footwear Industries Ltd, said the easing of coronavirus lockdowns in the key markets pushed up the demand for leather footwear and goods.
He said investors suffered in 2020 because of the pandemic as revenues dried up. "The business people worked hard to keep their businesses afloat."
Sohail, also the vice-president of the Leathergoods and Footwear Manufacturers & Exporters Association of Bangladesh, said international buyers had no option but to close their outlets due to a decline in sales.
"We passed a terrible year in 2020. Now, the situation has improved, so the export is rising," he said, adding that the export earnings would improve in 2022 if the pandemic came under control.
Leather products are formal items, so customers splash out on them when they have steady incomes. As the devastating impacts of the pandemic seem to be over, the incomes of the customers increased, industry people say.
Rubina Akhter Munni, owner of Design by Rubina, a leather product manufacturer, says she is receiving some queries from buyers from home and abroad.
The entrepreneur is optimistic about the business. "The business will improve further within the next two months if the coronavirus situation continues to improve."