Bangladesh hit by sharp fall in exports

DHAKA: Bangladesh exports plunged by around 12 per cent in the first quarter of the fiscal year as a delayed impact of the global recession routed the country’s garment sector, the government said Monday.

Officials described the drop as a ‘major upset’ for the country’s key economic lever, and industry leaders said the fall was the worst quarterly decline in a decade.

Figures released by the government’s Export Promotion Bureau (EPB) showed the country exported merchandise worth 3.87 billion dollars between July and September, down 11.66 per cent from the same period last year.

September exports declined by around 28 per cent from a year earlier, the steepest year-on-year drop in six years.

Garment shipments, which account for 80 per cent of the country’s annual exports, declined by around 10 per cent year-on-year, as orders from Western retailers declined due to the global meltdown, EPB head Shahab Ullah said.

‘We did well in the year ending June despite the first bout of the recession, but it’s a major upset in the first quarter and it happened due to one of the worst performances of the garment sector,’ Ullah said.

He predicted the garment industry would show an upturn as Western countries recovered from the recession.

Fazlul Haque, head of Bangladesh Knitwear Manufacturers and Exporters Association which represents 1,300 factories, called the drop ‘the worst in a decade,’ and called for the government to step in and help.

Last month a big garment factory was closed down due to the recession, leading to violent protests by some 15,000 workers that left two people dead and 100 injured.

Bangladesh garment exports grew 15.5 per cent to 12.3 billion dollars in the 2008-9 fiscal year, which ended on June 30, helped by low prices that undercut rivals such as China, India and Vietnam.

The garment trade accounts for 40 per cent of industrial jobs in Bangladesh where close to 40 per cent of its 144 million people live below the poverty line. —AFP

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