Boosting export of MMF apparel

Fashion of and taste for outfits continuously go through changes. Apparel made of man-made fibre (MMF) had started becoming trendy well before the pandemic and the trend seems to have received a further boost by the financial constraints in the post-pandemic reality of economic contractions in the importing countries. Cheaper, better looking and durable, the MMF or synthetic fibre currently has a global market of US$700 billion, in which Bangladesh’s share is a paltry $10 billion. Naturally, there is a serious need for reviewing the country’s apparel business which is its top forex earner. The choice for apparel made of MMF or artificial fibre may seem rather surprising particularly when there is a growing campaign against plastic the world over but diversification of Bangladesh’s apparel basket along this line will benefit the country even more. First, the country’s capacity for production of cotton or natural fibre is negligible and second it will help dispose of plastic waste, scraps and industrial rejects of other artificial materials because these serve as raw materials for MMF production.

Clearly, it is incumbent on the second highest garment exporter in the world to redirect its focus on increasing its share several times more in the MMF apparel export from its mere $10 billion. Keeping this objective in view, a BGMEA delegation led by its president Faruque Hassan, while on a visit to India, explored the possibility of outsourcing MMF from that country boasting a huge textile sector. In Bangladesh, 50 local mills produce MMF like polyester, viscose, staple fibre, flux fibre and lyocell. Reportedly, these mills run short of raw materials when the country has a disposal problem of polythene and plastic waste. Allegedly, a section of traders exports textile waste while the local MMF mills starve of raw materials. Obviously, there is a need for stopping such exports and also strengthening the capacity for collection of plastic and polythene waste under a well coordinated system.

There is news that investment in the primary textile sector which showed the sign of turning robust as part of the garment sector’s backward linkage industry has suddenly slowed. This is natural if apparel exports experience a dull market worldwide. Export orders are getting cancelled and foreign importers are asking for discounts. In an uncertain situation like this, the best option is to maximise the capacity for production of MMF apparel and export the same to traditional and non-traditional markets. To stay in garment business, factories should seize this opportunity as early as possible.

However this cannot be done overnight due to constraint of factory capacity and availability of the various types of artificial fibre. Here the choice ought to be made between outsourcing or development of local capacity for production of MMF. Business acumen dictates either of these depending on costs of outsourcing or local production. Even if local production proves commercially favourable, it will take time. In that case collaborative ventures may prove more profitable until the country’s production base becomes strong enough to meet the need of the garment factories. With garment export to India growing at 49 per cent in the first half of the current fiscal year, import of MMF for boosting production here and related collaboration in the area may benefit both countries.

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