The country's exports suffered a lot last year when the pandemic deteriorated during March-June last year, resulting in negative growth
Bangladesh needs to meticulously explore new markets of readymade garments, leather goods, pharmaceutical products, jute and jute goods to boost exports and withstand the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic, said trade analysts, policymakers, economists and exporters.
The country's exports suffered a lot last year when the pandemic deteriorated during March-June last year, resulting in negative growth.
Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA) Faruque Hassan said the export sector is going through challenging times as he looks at branding of Bangladesh readymade garment sector and strengthening economic diplomacy.
Faruque Hassan, also managing director of Giant Group, said: “Bangladesh has the highest number of green industries in the readymade garment sector that should be highlighted among importers, environmentalists and stakeholders through proper channels.
“Markets in countries like Russia, Japan, Poland, Romania, Bulgaria, Brazil, Mexico, Argentina, South Africa, Malaysia, Indonesia, China, Turkey, India, China and Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS ) should be expedited and explored with new innovative products”
As the USA and EU may go through the third/fourth wave of Covid-19 pandemic, Bangladesh should explore new markets and diversify export basket, said a BGMEA director.
Rubana Huq, former president of the Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA), said: “Bangladesh should diversify export products and explore new markets to survive in the competitive world market
"After a free-fall of RMG exports during March-May last year and struggle through June and July, exports saw a growth during the July-March period. Though the short-lived recovery of export was contributed mostly by the reinstatement of the cancelled orders during the peak of the pandemic."
New Bangladesh Ambassador to Mexico Abida Islam told Dhaka Tribune that Bangladeshi goods have high potentials in the Latin American markets.
“I will look at expanding trade relations between Bangladesh and Mexico, and exploring new markets of Bangladeshi products in Mexico and other Latin American countries,“ said Islam.
A BGMEA director told Dhaka Tribune that with the emergence of new upper and middle classes in China and India, Bangladesh has high potentials of exploring textile and clothing products to both countries.
Having a population of 275 crore together, China and India have witnessed steady economic growths in the last 20-25 years, resulting in an emergence of upper and middle classes.
Vice-President of Indian Importers Chambers of Commerce and Industry (IICCI) Jannatul Ferdous Nipa, talking to Dhaka Tribune, said: "Business breeds in the air of Bangladesh. From small corner shops to the biggest sustainable factories in the world, Bangladesh has earned its title of the second largest exporter in the world, coming only second to China. We have earned our place all thanks to our workers who sweat day and night so that we can get more competitive."
Nipa, also director of Bangladesh Garments Executive Association, also said: "Although Bangladesh is the second largest exporter, it still lags behind in some areas and only has about 10 default countries that it exports to. It needs to work on trying to expand its areas to more exotic countries. In order to do this, we need to expand our apparel and diversify our tastes to more than just clothes. If we manage to tap into more industries like leather, footwear, plastic, even shrimp, we can earn approximately up to $22 billion more annually."
Meanwhile, Bangladesh Ambassador to Uzbekistan Zahangir Alam told Dhaka Tribune: “Bangladeshi exporters can get a significant niche market in the Commonwealth of Independent States (or CIS).
There are nine member states of the Commonwealth of Independent States. These CIS states are Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Moldova, Russia, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan.
He said: “Members of Bangladesh Textile Mills Association can invest in the textile sector of Uzbekistan, as the country is a major producer and exporter of quality cotton in the international markets.
Alam also added: “Uzbekistan enjoys special GSP plus facilities in the European markets. Bangladesh entrepreneurs can set up textile mills and readymade garment factories here and enjoy special privileges while exporting textile goods to the EU countries.”
He said: “Lead time of export to the European countries is nearly two months from Bangladesh, while it is only 15 days from Uzbekistan.”
Zahangir Alam, also accredited to Afghanistan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan, has sent a letter to President of Bangladesh Textiles Mills Association (BTMA) Mohammad Ali Khokon to explore investment potentials in the textile sector in Uzbekistan.
Professor of Economics of the Dhaka University Selim Raihan said in 2019, against an import bill of roughly $9 billion, Bangladesh exports to Asean stood at only $846 million
By 2030, the Asean region will be the fourth-largest economy in the world. Its GDP increased from $2,373 billion in 2007 to $4,034 billion in 2016, according to a study titled 'Bangladesh: A Story of a Phoenix.'
Meanwhile, the country’s export earnings in the just concluded financial year 2020-21 grew by 15.10% to $38.76 billion from $33.67 billion in FY20 as the global economy started to recover from the shock of the coronavirus pandemic.
Although export earnings in FY21 increased by $5.08 billion compared with that in FY20, the earnings were still $1.77 billion lower than the pre-pandemic earnings in FY19, according to the Export Promotion Bureau data.
Experts and exporters said that it was encouraging that export earnings achieved 15% growth in FY21 but the earnings still remained below that of the pre-pandemic period.
They hoped that the country’s export earnings would exceed the pre-pandemic earnings in the financial year 2021-22.
Export earnings in FY20 declined by 16.93% or $6.86 billion from $40.53 billion in FY19 as the Covid outbreak disrupted both the supply and demand sides.
"We are in a recovery shape and hopefully, the export earnings will exceed the amount of the pre-pandemic period in FY22," Policy Research Institute Executive Director Ahsan H Mansur said.
Mansur said that Bangladesh’s readymade garment sector would have to develop its capacity to manage new orders as some buyers were moving to Bangladesh from Myanmar and India.
He recommended developing the backward linkage to attract orders based on man-made fibres and to increase the capacity of the Chittagong Port to tap into the post pandemic export potentials.
Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association president Faruque Hassan said that although RMG export increased by 12.55% in FY21, the earnings were still 7.84 % lower than the pre-pandemic levels.
He hoped that the export earnings would reach the pre-pandemic level by October in FY22.
Export earnings from jute and jute goods in the just concluded fiscal remained the second highest export earning sector after readymade garments.
Earnings from jute and jute goods stood at $1.16 billion with 31.63% growth from the earnings of $882.35 million in FY20.
Earnings from leather and leather goods export in FY21 grew by 18.06% to $941.67 million from $797.6 million in FY20.
Leather footwear export increased by 19.03% to $569.88 million in the just concluded financial year.
Agricultural products, including vegetables, fruits and spices, fetched $1.02 billion with a 19.27% growth in FY21.