Bangladesh garment exports to US soar in 2022

American orders for apparel made in Bangladesh are growing faster than U.S. imports from clothes manufacturing giant China, according to data compiled by the United States Department of Commerce through the first 10 months of 2022.

Garment exporters and economists said Bangladesh was luring buyers in the U.S. and the European Union who have cut back on purchases from China. They said relatively low costs, reliability and easy labor availability are among the reasons for U.S.-based buyers increasing orders from Bangladesh.

“Bangladesh is getting China’s customers,” economist Ahsan H. Mansur told BenarNews.

From January to October last year, the United States imported apparel from Bangladesh valued at about $8.5 billion – representing a 49% jump from imports of Bangladeshi-made garments during the same period in 2021, according to the Office of Textiles and Apparels (OTEXA) at the U.S. Department of Commerce.

By comparison, the U.S. imported $19.3 billion in apparel made in China during the same 10-month period, but that increase was only about 21% over the $16 billion during the same period in 2021.

The OTEXA data showed that the U.S. imported apparel valued at $7.15 billion from Bangladesh and $19.6 billion from China during all of 2021, growth rates of 37% for Bangladesh and 29% for China compared to 2020.

The ready-made garment industry in Bangladesh is one of the engines of the South Asian country’s export economy. The sector employs at least 3 million workers, mostly women, who work for low wages in factories that often have a poor record for workplace safety.

The growth spurt surprised Mansur, executive director of the Policy Research Institute of Bangladesh, who had predicted that the nation’s exports would continue to decrease until next month.

Meanwhile, the chairman of Bangladesh’s Research and Policy Integration for Development (RAPID), a non-profit and non-partisan research organization, pointed specifically to Beijing’s role on the world stage having a positive effect on Dhaka’s transactions.

“China’s tensions with Western countries has a major role in increasing orders from other countries including Bangladesh. It seems that some major U.S. buyers want to reduce their business with China gradually,” Mohammad Abdur Razzaque told BenarNews.

The leader of garment manufacturer Crony Group, an organization of about 30,000 Bangladeshi garment workers based in Narayanganj, said that appears to be happening.

“We have recently received some orders from some U.S.-based companies who had previously done business with China,” Neela Hosne Ara told BenarNews.

Bangladesh is not the only nation and garment manufacturing hub to benefit from the trend, according to the Bangladesh Knitwear Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BKMEA).

“The Western countries increased export orders in recent months while the ratio of exports orders are now to other countries, specifically Bangladesh and Vietnam,” BKMEA Vice President Fazlee Shamim Ehsan told BenarNews.

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