07 Nov 2013
Government released data confirms that exports in Bangladesh rose 36.26% to reach $2.59 billion in September from a year earlier, largely due to stronger clothing sales. Forecasts, however, predict a fall in growth as international buyers are skeptical and discouraged by a series of catastrophic accidents that have hit the country’s garment industry, which is second-largest in the world.
Garment exports alone surged 24% to $6.2 billion in the first quarter of their financial year (July-September), compared to the same period in 2012. Overall exports rose 21% to $7.63 billion in the first quarter.
The garment industry was under criticism after a disastrous collapse of the Rana Plaza factory that killed 1,130 workers in April. Moreover, two factory fires have killed a total of 119 people in the past two years. In its latest Asian Development Outlook update, the Asia Development Bank stated “export growth is projected to slow to 7% on an expected weaker expansion in garment exports because of somewhat unfavourable buyer reaction in the aftermath of fatal factory fires…and the horrific factory collapse in April”.
These incidents have put the Bangladeshi government, industrialists and global brands under the international spotlight to reform the industry that employs 3.5 million workers and generates 80% of the country’s exports. The United States (buying 23% of Bangladesh’s total exports) have taken initiative and cut a few trade benefits in response to the factory collapse. However, for real reform, the European Union (which buys 60% of total exports) needs to apply severe pressure on the country’s garment industry towards better working conditions for employees.
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