Chattogram port in January handled the highest number of export containers compared to the preceding 11 months, giving a good sign of export recovery.
According to the Chattogram Port Authority (CPA) data, 125,778 TEUs (twenty-foot equivalent unit) were handled in January while the number was 114,352 in February last year. The figures in the following months never surpassed that of January 2021.
Ahsanul Haque Chowdhury, president of Bangladesh Shipping Agents Association, told The Business Standard container handling had increased by around 15% in January compared to the initial period of the pandemic.
He said exports were increasing as the Covid-19 situation was getting normal and the economy was on the path to recovery.
CPA Secretary Md Omar Faruk said the export-oriented factories had already resumed production.
"Moreover, the pandemic situation is improving in Bangladesh as well as in other countries. That is why container handling at the port has increased."
But January's container handling figure was lower than that of the same month last year when the country was yet to see the coronavirus breakout.
When the pandemic struck in March, exports fell sharply. 59,604 TEUs were handled the following month even though 125,000 TEUs on average used to be handled every month before the pandemic hit.
Export container handling fell by 11% last year due to the pandemic compared to a year earlier. In 2020, 1,348,749 TEUs were handled, down from 1,500,880 in 2019.
Apparel makers witnessed a slump in business due to order cancellations during the pandemic. The sector has now started recovering, with manufacturers saying 2021 began with the hope of a turnaround.
Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporter Association Vice-President AM Chowdhury Selim said ready-made garment exports had seen 1.6% negative growth in January 2021 compared to the same month last year.
But the sector, he said, would hopefully turn around completely by June if inoculation went well.
Apparel exporters said shops remained closed in many countries due to the pandemic, but online sales were increasing, adding that exports to Australia and Japan were rising.
Exports of knitwear, the main export item of Bangladesh, rose by around 4% in January while jute and jute goods increased by 27% percent, home textiles 44%, and engineering products 59%.
Woven garment exports, however, fell by 11%.
Chattogram port is the country's premier port, handling 92% of the total exports and imports.