Exports of leather and leather goods crossed $1 billion for the second year in fiscal 2014-15, according to data from the Export Promotion Bureau.
In 2014-15, Bangladesh exported leather and leather goods worth $1.13 billion, compared with $1.12 billion in the previous fiscal year, making it the second highest contributor to national exports after garment.
Jute and jute goods became the third highest export earner, data shows. Bangladesh exports leather shoes, travel bags, wallets, belts and finished leather.
The sector has been performing well, as higher export values have helped the sector earn over $1 billion for two years in a row, said Syed Nasim Manzur, managing director of Apex Footwear Ltd, Bangladesh's largest footwear exporter that shipped $110 million of goods overseas in 2013.
Despite earnings growth, the country missed the export target of $1.4 billion by 19.09 percent in 2014-15, he said.
Bangladesh aims to export $1.21 billion of leather and leather goods in 2015-16, which is 7.28 percent higher from last fiscal year, he said.
Italy, the UK, Belgium, Spain, France, Germany, Poland, the US and Canada are the big markets for the sector, he said.
In recent years, the exporters have been doing well in Japan, India, Nepal and Australian markets, Manzur said.
“Of the new destinations, Japan is very promising for us, as our export is increasing significantly in the market because of a duty-free advantage.”
The government should negotiate with Japan as the possibility of a free trade deal to be signed by different countries with the Asian economic giant may encourage it to cancel the duty benefit, he said.
Bangladesh now exports only 0.5 percent of the global leather and leather goods market worth $215 billion, according to industry insiders.
The sector may achieve the target by the end of the current fiscal year, although it missed the target in the last two years, said Saiful Islam, president of the Leathergoods & Footwear Manufacturers & Exporters Association of Bangladesh.
“Our export missed the target for two reasons: the crisis in Eurozone and environmental problems in Hazaribagh area,” Islam told The Daily Star.
The appreciation of the taka against the euro was also responsible for missing the target, he said.
International retailers are placing a low number of work orders in the factories housed in Hazaribagh tanneries that are polluting the environment, Islam said.
The Hazaribagh tanneries were supposed to be relocated to Savar tannery estate few years ago, he said.
“Our target is to export $5 billion of leather and leather goods by 2020 as our new export destinations are showing great promises,” he said.
Bangladesh exports 30 percent of its leather and leather goods to Japan every year, Islam said.