Apparel Trade: Vietnam overtakes Bangladesh
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.
Bangladesh's apparel shipment declined by 18 percent year-on-year to $28 billion last year as the pandemic forced it to shut garment factories for almost a month, according to a report of the World Trade Organisation (WTO).
Garment exports from Vietnam also dropped in 2020. It declined by 6 percent to $29 billion, said the World Trade Statistical Review 2021 released on Friday.
As a result, Vietnam moved to the second spot after China, pushing Bangladesh to the third.
China, which also registered a decline in export, shipped apparel worth $142 billion in 2020.
Bangladesh's share in the global apparel trade declined to 6.3 percent last year from 6.8 percent in 2019.
Vietnam's share rose to 6.4 per cent from 6.2 percent. China also made gains.
Vietnam has been widely praised for its public health measures that quickly brought numbers under control.
When the virus first spread beyond China in early 2020, Vietnam acted fast and decisively, closing its borders to almost all travellers except returning citizens, according to the BBC.
Faruque Hassan, president of the Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA), told The Daily Star that he is hopeful Bangladesh will soon regain the second position.
Garment factories in Bangladesh were largely closed in April last year. As a result, the country's overall export earnings plunged to a record low of $0.52 billion that month. The apparel shipment, which accounts for about 85 percent of the national exports, was $0.37 billion.
Bangladesh lost $6 billion in exports in 2020 because of the closure of factories during the shutdown, said BGMEA Vice-president Md Shahidullah Azim.
Another factor that contributed to Vietnam's success is the country's non-cotton garment items for which it received premium prices from international buyers.
On the other hand, Bangladesh is strong in producing cotton items and receives lower prices. Of the total garment export from the country, 74 percent is cotton-made.
Hassan said, "We have launched our innovation centre to overcome our limitations in research on markets and product development so that we can perform better in the global garment trade."
Bangladesh has also started investing in non-cotton items to grab more market share and get premium prices.
AK Azad, managing director of Ha-Meem Group, one of the biggest apparel exporters of Bangladesh, said the gain made by Vietnam is temporary.
"As major infrastructures are being readied," he said, citing the ongoing construction of the economic zones.