Exports up 6pc in Feb on garment sales

Bangladesh’s exports rose 6.36 percent in February from a year earlier to $2.39 billion, boosted by stronger garment sales, the Export Promotion Bureau said on Monday, as political turmoil eased after an election in January.

In the first eight months of the financial year beginning July 1, exports totalled $19.83 billion, up nearly 14 percent from the same period a year ago, the export bureau said.

rmgGarment exports rose 9 percent on year to $1.96 billion in February and were up 16.7 percent to $16.7 billion for the eight months.

Garment exporters said orders are rebounding but the pace is not impressive and urged global retailers to ensure fair price for apparel.

“Orders are coming as the political situation has improved but the pace is slow. We want a fair price from international buyers as production costs have gone up with a 77 percent rise in basis wages for workers and for extensive safety improvements,” said Shahidullah Azim, vice president of the Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers & Exporters Association.

Bangladesh’s $22-billion garment industry had seen orders cut nearly in half in the three months to December as political unrest in the months leading up to a Jan. 5 election hit the country, according to the BGMEA.

The unrest eased after the polls, which were boycotted by the main opposition party and shunned by international observers as flawed, but the respite could be short-lived as the opposition plans to launch a fresh agitation to oust the government.

The garment industry, which supplies many Western brands such as Wal-Mart, Tesco and H&M, has already been under the spotlight after a string of fatal factory accidents, including the collapse of a building housing factories in April that killed more than 1,130 people.

From late last month, safety experts, hired by mostly European retailers, have begun mass inspections in garment factories.

Bangladesh raised wages for millions of garment workers starting last December and amended its labour law last July to boost worker rights, including the freedom to form trade unions, following international pressure on the world’s second largest clothing exporter.

However, industry leaders said all factory owners had not implemented the minimum wage of $68 per month – up from $38 – while in February Human Rights Watch said garment factory workers who try to form trade unions are being intimidated and threatened with murder