February's earnings were down about 4% from a year earlier
Exports continued to show the jitters in February, dropping 3.9 per cent year-on-year even though the coronavirus inoculation programme has begun in much of the Western world.
Bangladesh fared better than Pakistan, whose export proceeds were 4.5 per cent lower at $2 billion in February. Neighbouring India saw its exports contract 0.25 per cent in February after two successive months of growth.
Last month, overseas shipments raked $3.2 billion, missing the month’s target by $161.9 million, according to data from the Export Promotion Bureau.
Of the sum, garment, which brings home the lion’s share of the export receipts, fetched $2.6 billion, down 5.4 per cent year-on-year.
February’s receipts take the takings so far in fiscal 2020-21 to $25.9 billion -- down about 1.5 per cent year-on-year -- meaning the possibility of getting even within a touching distance of the full-year target of $41 billion is faint.
“The distressing situation will go on for a few more months,” said Rubana Huq, president of the Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association.
In the first eight months of the fiscal year, garment exports fetched $21 billion, down 3.7 per cent from a year earlier.
The issue of price cuts is another major challenge the industry is facing, according to Huq.
An interim policy measure is required to support the industry to survive until the market shows silver linings, she added.
The recovery of Bangladesh's exports depends on the global economic and Covid-19 situation, said Ahsan H Mansur, executive director of the Policy Research Institute.
“There is enough preparation from our side but the demand for goods is yet to be created due to the ongoing lockdown in the EU and US especially.”
Buyers will place new orders for the fall season.
“We are hoping for a turnaround by June-July this year,” Mansur added.
However, some sectors are showing promise: the home textile sector posted a robust growth of 39 per cent to $730 million in the eight months to February.
The earnings of jute and jute goods, a major sector, were 23.7 per cent higher during the period at $863 million.
Leather and products declined 4.2 per cent to $606 million, while non-leather footwear exports were more or less the same: $219 million against $219.47 million a year earlier.
Bangladesh earned $338 million from frozen and live fish exports, down 10.3 per cent year-on-year, while agricultural exports have posted a meagre decline of 0.4 per cent to $665 million.
Export earnings from the pharmaceuticals sector, an emerging sector, increased 11.3 per cent $108 million, while the shipment of plastic goods, which was showing good promise, declined 4.5 per cent to $73 million.