Bangladesh's export earnings continue to be buoyant as it clocked the $4 billion mark for the third successive month in November this year, with an over 31% year-on-year growth, thanks to a strong rebound of global demand for apparels.
Industry leaders have linked the excellent performance of apparel shipments to shifting of additional work orders from its key competitors, such as Vietnam, India and Myanmar, which are still grappling with pandemic shocks.
Frozen and live fish, agricultural products, leather and leather goods, home textile, jute and jute goods, pharmaceuticals and plastic products also posted impressive growth.
However, the export receipts were about $686 million lower than those in October this year, according to the latest provisional data released from the Export Promotion Bureau (EPB) on Thursday.
Putting on around 60% growth, October was a record breaker with the highest ever single-month export earnings amounting to $4.73 billion.
Apparel shipments grew by 32.34% to $3.24 billion year-on-year in November, taking export earnings to $15.85 billion in the first five months of this fiscal year, which was 12.33% higher than the target.
The lone poor performer – engineering products suffered an over 18% negative growth in November.
According to the EPB data, the country's export earnings amounted to $3.57 billion in November 2020.
In July-November this fiscal year, the RMG sector posted nearly 23% growth year-on-year, according to the latest export data published by the EPB.
Knitwear exports rose 33% to $1.78 billion, while the woven sector raked in $1.46billion with 31.48% growth.
Mohiuddin Rubel, a director at Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA), said, "If we also look at the export value for November 2021, it shows that we exported $3.24 billion worth of RMG goods in spite of having a 32% growth. This means exports in November last year were very low at $2.44 billion," he added.
He also highlighted that prices of raw materials, including yarns, dyes and chemicals have gone up.
"Freight costs have hit a record high. Export values obviously accommodate the inflation of input costs. So, the export growth is rather nominal, not absolute," he noted.
"We have enjoyed robust growth over the last few months, but the situation has now changed with the advent of Omicron, a new Covid-19 variant," said Shahidullah Azim, vice-president at the BGMEA.
Buyers are now asking them to go slow in production as some European countries are at risk of Omicron spread, which might affect the export performance in December-January, he pointed out.
However, Kutubuddin Ahmed, chairman of Envoy Group, said there is nothing to worry about any effect of Omicron on export performance as the new variant does not seem to be dangerous with no death reported so far, he noted.
Talking about continuation of Bangladesh's export growth, he said as long as the ongoing trade conflicts between the United States and China, and the European Union and Japan continue, Bangladesh will benefit, which might help it maintain the robust growth.
Besides, demand for apparel items remains high as there is still a shortage in buyers' stores, he also said.
If Bangladesh can have at least $10 billion worth of orders shifted from China, the largest apparel exporter to the global market, it will help the country continue export growth and achieve the $50 billion target, said Kutubuddin, also a former BGMEA president.