THE apparel industry, a major export-earning sector of the country, needs to seek new and non-traditional markets as soon as possible to tap the potential that they could hold as it needs to secure its position from any shock in traditional markets. Bangladesh’s apparel export to non-traditional destinations accounts for, as New Age reported on Tuesday, only 5 per cent of the total import demand, despite the huge potential for more, while Chinese apparel export to such destinations accounts for 49 per cent of the demand, according to data of the International Trade Centre. The European Union, the United States and Canada still remain the main destination for Bangladesh’s apparel while, according to experts, the apparel sector has an immense potential of increasing exports to Australia, Russia, Japan, China, India, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Mexico, South Africa, South Korea and the United Arab Emirates. High dependency on western markets may jeopardise the apparel sector if western countries would ever meet any financial shock. Any such shock form the western markets may expose Bangladesh’s economy and labour force to a huge threat as four million people now work in the apparel sector. The growth of apparel export to non-traditional markets, which is slowly increasing, should, therefore, be a focus of the government.
Other countries, especially China and Vietnam, are taking the full advantage of this. Chinese and Vietnamese apparel export to Japan and South Korea is much higher than Bangladesh’s. This is also true in the case of Russia, the UAE and South Africa. Experts have pointed out that for lack of preparation on part of both the government and exporters, the apparel sector of Bangladesh is failing to tap the potentials of gaining share of such non-traditional markets. This points to a lack of initiatives of the government and exporters. In addition, Bangladesh fails to gain more space in the non-traditional market because of tariff barriers, losing price competitiveness, long shipment time, low-end products and lack of product diversity. The commerce minister on Sunday said that despite the government’s three per cent cash incentive against export proceeds, the exporters were heading to western markets while the BGMEA pointed out that the growth of Bangladesh’s export to non-traditional market had been stuck for the past two years because of high duty in many countries and low competitive edge compared with others. China and Vietnam are reported to have gained because of the support that exporters in the countries get. Both exporters and the government should, therefore, realise that it is time to act together and not to trade blame.
It is therefore, high time that the government and apparel exporters addressed the issues and work together to resolve any problems that are there. The government, taking exporters on board, must engage with countries having export prospect to remove tariff barriers and put in more efforts to improve the situation for the exporters.
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