Exports slump by 17pc, hit five-year low in FY20

Moinul Haque | Published: 23:03, Jul 05,2020


The country’s export earnings in the just concluded financial year 2019-20 dropped to a five-year low of $33.67 billion as the coronavirus pandemic hit hurt global business.

Export earnings in FY20 declined by 16.93 per cent, or $6.86 billion, from $40.53 billion in FY19 as the pandemic disrupted both the supply and demand sides, according to the Export Promotion Bureau data released on Sunday.

As per the EPB data, the country’s export earnings in FY20 are lowest since financial year 2014-15 when the earning stood $31.21 billion.

Earnings from readymade garment products also registered negative growth for the first time in the history of the sector.

Sector people said that the RMG witnessed the lowest, 0.2 per cent, growth in the FY 2008-09 and the sector registered more than 18 per cent negative growth in this fiscal year for the first time.

Experts said that the new fiscal would be for survival on the global market not for growth.

They said that Bangladesh’s export would have to grow by more than 20 per cent in this fiscal year to gain around $7 billion earnings which the country lost in FY20.

The EPB data showed that Bangladesh’s export in FY20 fell 25.99 per cent or $11.82 billion short of its target of $45.5 billion set by the government.

Although the export earnings in FY20 registered a 16.93-per cent negative growth, the earnings bounced back in June compared with the performance in April and May.

Export earnings in June this year stood at $2.71 billion, which is 2.50 per cent lower than $2.78 billion earnings in the same month of FY19, the EPB data showed.

The country’s export earnings in April and May this year declined by 82.85 per cent and 61.57 per cent respectively as global buyers cancelled work orders and manufacturing units remained closed in Bangladesh due to the outbreak of coronavirus.

‘Our export declined by nearly $7 billion in FY20 due to the COVID-19 outbreak as the pandemic disrupted both the supply and demand sides,’ Centre for Policy Dialogue distinguished fellow Mustafizur Rahman told New Age on Sunday.

He said that the new fiscal 2020-21 would be challenging for Bangladesh as the country would have to achieve more than 20 per cent growth to recover the loss made in FY20.

‘The FY21 will be for survival on the global market not for growth as dual challenges including price cutting and decreased demand will take place in the fiscal,’ Mustafiz said.

Policy Research Institute of Bangladesh executive director and BRAC Bank chairman Ahsan H Mansur said that the export figure in June showed that the RMG exports picked up in the month but the export sector was not out of troubles.

‘It is a good sign for Bangladesh that the EU countries are going to reopen their business but we have to face some challenges in the coming days to gain export growth in the zone,’ he said.

Ahsan said that Bangladesh would have to go for man-made fibre instead of cotton to grow on the global market as the growth of cotton became negligible.

He also suggested reducing lead time to remain competitive on the post-pandemic global market.

Readymade garment exports in FY20 declined by 18.12 per cent, or $6.18 billion, to $27.95 billion from $34.13 billion in FY19, the EPB data showed.

The earnings from RMG fell 26.83 per cent short of the target set for the fiscal.

The earnings from woven garments fell by 18.58 per cent to $14.04 billion in the period while the earnings from knitwear exports dropped by 17.65 per cent to $13.90 billion, the data showed.

Mohammad Hatem, senior vice-president of the Bangladesh Knitwear Manufacturers and Exporters Association, said that it was the first time the RMG export witnessed negative growth.

Earlier in FY 2008-09, all the RMG exporting countries in the world registered negative growth but Bangladesh registered 0.2 per cent positive growth, he said.

Hatem feared that RMG export might also register negative growth in FY21 as the flow of export orders was much lower than usual.

Amid the pandemic, export earnings from jute and jute goods maintained a steady growth and became the second highest export earning sector after RMG products.

Exports of jute and jute goods increased by 8.10 per cent to $882.35 million in FY20 from $816.27 million in the previous fiscal year.

The export earnings from leather and leather goods in FY20 fell by 21.79 per cent to $797.6 million from $1.01 billion in FY19.

The earnings from leather footwear decreased by 21.24 per cent to $478.75 million in the just concluded financial year.

The EPB data showed that the export earnings from home textile stood at $758.91 million in FY20, down 10.90 per cent from $851.72 million in FY19.

Agricultural products including vegetables, fruits and spices in FY20 fetched $862.06 million with a 5.16-per cent negative growth.

Frozen and live fish exports in FY20 decreased by 8.84 per cent to $456.15 million, the EPB data showed.

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