Jan-May apparel exports to US fall 12pc as pandemic hits demand

Moinul Haque | Published: 23:17, Jul 04,2020

 
 

A file photo shows workers wearing facemasks sewing clothes in a garment factory in Dhaka in May.  Bangladesh’s apparel exports to the United States in January-May this year fell by 12.10 per cent due to the negative impacts of the global coronavirus outbreak. — AFP photo

Bangladesh’s apparel exports to the United States in January-May this year fell by 12.10 per cent due to the negative impacts of the global coronavirus outbreak.

The country’s readymade garment exports to the US market in the five months of 2020 stood at $2.24 billion, which is $309 million lower than $2.55 billion generated in the same period of last year, according to the data of the Office of Textiles and Apparel under the US Department of Commerce.

The data showed that in January-May of 2020, Bangladesh exported 809 million square metres of RMG articles, which was 10.68 per cent lower than 905 million square metres shipped in the same period of 2019.

Exporters and experts said that the impacts of the coronavirus pandemic on Bangladesh’s exports had begun to reflect in the US import data for the January-May period.

On the other hand, Bangladesh’s RMG exports to the US in January-April registered a 2.13 per cent positive growth with $2.07 billion in earnings.

The experts said that the January-April positive growth was a reflection of the shipment in March and the January-May data showed a reflection of the April shipment.

‘The impacts of the pandemic on our RMG sector is starting to reflect in the US import data and the negative growth could increase in the January-June data,’ Centre for Policy Dialogue research director Khandaker Golam Moazzem said on Saturday.

He, however, said it was a positive sign that Bangladesh’s export earnings showed improvements in June in comparison to May.

The OTEXA data also showed that apparel imports of the US in the first five months of this calendar year declined by 27.76 per cent to $23.92 billion from $33.11 billion in the same period of last year.

US apparel import from China in the January-May  period of this year decreased by 49.23 per cent to $4.61 billion from $9.08 billion in the same period of 2019.

Vietnam’s RMG exports to the US declined by 9.36 per cent to $4.81 billion in January-May against $5.30 billion of the corresponding period of 2019.

However, RMG imports from Cambodia to the country increased by 6.45 per cent to $1.07 billion from 1.01 billion, the data showed.

US apparel import from India fell by 27.08 per cent to $1.42 billion in the first five months of this year while import from Indonesia decreased by 15.29 per cent to 1.62 billion.

Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association said

BGMEA president Rubana Huq said that the apparel imports of US  posted a drastic decline by 60.08 per cent for the month of May (year-on- year) for the third consecutive month, and highest ever decline in COVID-19 time.

While US imports from Bangladesh were maintained on the positive side till January-April 2020, May had been an apocalyptic month for the exporters in the US market as exports went down by 67.65 per cent in the month pushing the January-May growth down to negative 12.10 per cent, she said.

‘Such abnormal decline in imports is not a usual phenomenon and we hope US imports will bounce back as sales are expected to pick up as lockdowns are being lifted (though new cases are spiking caused by subsequent waves),’ Rubana said.

Former vice-president of the BGMEA Mahmud Hasan Khan Babu said that the negative growth in the US market was expected as a good number of buyers had cancelled and deferred orders while Bangladesh’s factories were closed in April due to the coronavirus pandemic.

He said that the recovery of export growth in the US market would not be easy as overall demand had plunged on the market due to the pandemic.

Moreover, it would take time to recover the growth of the woven sub sector due to the supply chain disruption as exports of woven products depended on 50 per cent imported fabrics, Babu said.

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