DHAKA - Bangladesh's exports surged nearly 41 percent in March from a year earlier to a record $2.14 billion as apparel sales rose sharply, led by a continuing shift in production from China to the lower-cost South Asian country. Exports for July to March, first nine months of the 2010-11 fiscal year, rose by an above-target 40.3 percent to more than $16 billion, the Export Promotion Bureau said on Wednesday. Exports of ready-made garments to Europe and the United States, which constitute close to 70 percent of total overseas sales, have been growing since last year on the back of the global economic recovery.
Garments exports surged 41 percent to $12.57 billion in July-March. Officials said the record high figure in March reflected the lower wages that have attracted some clothing production away from China. Orders are also growing from new markets such as Japan, South Africa, Canada, China, India, Australia and New Zealand. Bangladesh's cheap labour costs have helped it join the global supply chain for low-end textiles and clothing.
The country, last year, nearly doubled the minimum monthly wage for millions of workers in the garment industry to 3,000 taka ($42) but salaries are still low compared with rival manufacturing centres such as China, India, Vietnam, Thailand and Cambodia. Esprit Holdings Ltd, Asia's number three garment retailer by market value which has a strong presence in Europe, said in February it would switch more sourcing to Bangladesh from southern China.
Garments are one of the main foreign exchange earners for Bangladesh's $90 billion economy, along with remittances from Bangladeshis working overseas, many of whose jobs are now at risk due to the turmoil in the Middle East.
Bangladesh's exports rose 4.11 percent to $16.20 billion in the 2009-10 fiscal year, that ended in June, below target. Exports are on track to exceed target growth of 14.2 percent in the current fiscal year. But the government has expressed concern that high global food and oil prices are aggravating the country's trade deficit. The deficit widened by $1.9 billion to $6.1 billion in July-January from a year earlier, owing to soaring imports as global commodity prices rose.