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Pandemic caused bigger blow to Bangladesh’s exports than its competitors

  • Published at 06:26 pm February 10th, 2021
Bangladesh's exports in 2020

Says UNCTAD in the February edition of its Global Trade Update.

Bangladesh's export game was much slower than its closest competitors amid the Covid-19 pandemic, said the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) on Wednesday.

Countries like Vietnam, China, Malaysia, Indonesia, India and Turkey gained export competitiveness and market share amid the pandemic, but Bangladesh could not gain any new ground.

The UNCTAD made the comparison in the February edition of its Global Trade Update.

As per the report, Bangladesh export volatility was estimated at 0.52, while Vietnam's was estimated at 0.39, followed by Indonesia with 0.03, China 0.39 and with Turkey 0.50.

In South Asia, Pakistan showed the highest volatility with 0.67.

While export volatility tracks export performance across the last six months to identify volatility patterns, a greater score implies higher export vulnerability. Data exclude intra-EU trade.

Bangladesh's export performance also left a lot to be desired, as the country scored 0.35, tying with India.

Export performance is a composite indicator which includes growth rates, performance versus peers, and competitiveness in major and dynamic markets. A greater score implies higher export performance.

Vietnam, on the other hand, scored 0.63, Turkey 0.51, Indonesia with 0.48, Pakistan 0.42 and China scored 0.56.

Covid-19 is having a profound impact not only on the global demand but also on the relative competitiveness of countries. 

While exports have declined for most countries, some countries have gained in terms of global market share, as their economies were able to better weather the challenges of the pandemic, said the trade update.

The fall in global demand brought by Covid-19 has forced the least competitive suppliers out of the global market while enabling the most competitive suppliers to thrive during the recovery process, the report said.

During the pandemic China was able to capture market share in many sectors including in some of the most negatively affected sectors such as transport equipment and road vehicles, it added.

However, China’s export competitiveness eroded in some of the sectors, exhibiting an increase in trade during the pandemic. Vietnam, Thailand and Taiwan have been relatively better able to capture the additional demand in these sectors, UNCTAD said.

Bangladesh's export volatility was caused mainly due to supply disruption as China, the main source of raw materials, was in lockdown since January last year, said  Faruque Hassan, former senior vice president of Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA).

Though Bangladesh announced its first confirmed cases of Covid-19 on March 8 last year, the initial supply chain freeze and later the disturbance in imports expedited the crisis, which also hit export earnings.

China gained competitiveness as it had enough raw materials due to its strong manufacturing base, said Hassan, also a managing director of Giant Group.

On the other hand, Vietnam's export was less volatile as it was the most successful country in controlling the spread of the novel virus. It also gained export competitiveness and market share due to its ability to keep its manufacturing active amid the pandemic, he added.

On top of that, Bangladesh's exports witnessed negative growth due to lengthier lockdown in European countries and the US, the two largest destinations, which imports almost over 90 per cent of its demands.

However, China and other competitor countries have other export destinations beyond these two blocks.        

As per the report, Bangladesh' apparel exports during January-November of 2020 declined by 14 per cent, while Vietnam saw a 6 per cent fall. Pakistan and Cambodia's apparel exports fell by 8 per cent followed by Indonesia 3 per cent.

However, global apparel exports plunged by 12 per cent during the pandemic.

The report also finds that Covid-19 had affected countries’ competitiveness in global markets, with some economies gaining market share in certain sectors while losing it in others.

Countries such as China, Switzerland, Taiwan (province of China), Turkey, Uganda and Vietnam experienced relatively better export performance in 2020, according to the report.

In contrast, Colombia, Nigeria, Saudi Arabia and Venezuela performed relatively worse last year.

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