Bangladesh has set a new milestone for exports as receipts crossed the $5 billion mark in a month for the first time, beating forecasts of impending economic gloom.
Goods worth $5.09 billion were shipped in November, a 26 percent year-on-year growth, eclipsing the previous monthly record of $4.9 billion set in June, according to data published by the Export Promotion Bureau.
In light of the ongoing economic slowdown, the latest export figures have taken many industrialists by surprise.
BGMEA chief Faruque Hassan attributes the feat to garment exporters' tapping into new markets following the pandemic as well as their capacity to manufacture high-quality apparels.
Noting that the export industry is navigating a rocky phase, he said, "Yet, the surprise success in November came on the of rising raw material prices, high-end apparel production and increased exports to new markets such as Korea, the Middle East and India.”
Anwar-ul Alam Chowdhury, president of the Bangladesh Chamber of Commerce, said exports from Bangladesh's chief competitors China, Myanmar and Vietnam have lagged in the last five months due to the changing global situation. As a result, some buyers from these countries have recently turned to Bangladesh.
"That's why Bangladesh's garment exports have grown despite and gas and power crisis. This is indicative of Bangladesh's sustainable position in the export market," he said.
In recent months, exporters have been complaining of a 30-50 percent drop in output due to gas and electricity disruptions. The Ukraine-Russia war also dragged down purchase orders from Europe and America, the largest market for garment exports, amid growing fears of an economic recession.
The export figures for September and October seemed to add credence to the concerns with revenues dropping by 6 percent and 8 percent respectively. But November was a turn-up for the books as export receipts exceeded the target for the month by 17 percent.
Garments fuelled the turnaround, accounting for almost 83 percent of the total exports in July-November. Exports have grown 10.89 percent to $21.95 billion in the first five months of FY23.
However, the positive performance for exports does not reflect the reality of the situation facing the garment industry as many factories are struggling to get purchase orders, according to Fazlee Shamim Ehsan, vice president of BKMEA.
"No factory is working overtime now. Many factories are turning to sub-contacts for work. Also, those who have opportunities haven't been able to work at full capacity in the past months due to the gas and electricity crisis. Under these circumstances, such growth in exports is truly amazing."