Bangladesh exports in August rose 7.25 percent from a year ago to $2.16 billion, government data showed on Sunday, driven by an increase in readymade garment exports and ending a brief slowdown in July.
Exports fell 1.4 percent in July from a year earlier, the first decline since August 2012. The August figures were still 17.5 percent below the government’s monthly target.
Readymade garments, comprising knitwear and woven items, fetched $4.23 billion in July and August, the first two months of the current financial year, compared with $4.16 billion a year ago, the Export Promotion Bureau said.
Exports in the 2013-14 financial year hit a record $30 billion, up 11 percent from the previous year, on the back of stronger garment sales.
However, the garment industry, which supplies many Western brands such as Wal-Mart, Tesco and H&M , has come under pressure after a string of fatal factory accidents, including the collapse of a building housing factories in April 2013 that killed more than 1,130 people.
The government, industrialists and the global brands that buy clothes from the factories have been called on to reform the sector, which employs nearly 4 million people and generates 80 percent of Bangladesh’s export earnings.
The low wages and what critics say are shortcuts on safety, make it one of the cheapest countries in the world to make large quantities of clothing. Bangladesh is the second-largest exporter of readymade garments after China.
Last year, the government raised the minimum wage for garment workers by 77 percent to 5,300 taka ($68) a month and amended the labour law to boost workers’ rights.
But despite that, frequent strikes over wages are hampering the sector’s growth.
Bangladesh’s exports in the 2014-15 financial year are expected to rise 10 percent from a year earlier to $33.2 billion.
Garment exports for the current financial year have been fixed at $26.9 billion, up 10 percent from previous year’s $24.5 billion when clothing sales surged 14 percent.