Bangladesh's export earnings in February declined by nearly 4% to $3.19 billion compared to the same month of the previous year, mainly because of the Covid-19 impacts on the apparel sector.
At the same time, export income of jute and jute goods, leather and leather goods, and agricultural products recorded a positive growth, but its impact on the overall export earnings was not significant.
According to Export Promotion Bureau's data, export earnings had almost a 5% shortfall to reach the strategic target of $3.35 billion set for February.
Moreover, export earnings during the July-February period of the current fiscal year declined by 1.45% to $25.86 billion compared to the same period of the previous financial year. During these eight months, the readymade garment sector, the largest contributor to the country's overall exports, earned $21 billion, down by 3.73% from the same period of FY20.
Of the $21 billion, knitwear products fetched $11.34 billion, up by 4%, while woven items earned $9.7 billion, registering an 11.5% negative growth.
Woven garment export growth declined for the 19th consecutive month due to the slowdown in demand during lockdowns in major markets, said business leaders.
"We saw knitwear export growth as the use of such items increased during the pandemic because people are not going to offices and parties. This also impacted woven items," said Mohammad Hatem, managing director of MB Knit Fashion and the first vice-president of Bangladesh Knitwear Manufacturers and Exporters Association.
But he expressed concern about the future of knitwear exports as yarn prices had been rising for the last few months.
"We recently exported a bulk amount of female knitwear items to an American buyer. Now we are unable to receive the order for another five lakh pieces as the yarn price hike has led to an additional cost of $.20 for each piece of garment. Despite the increase in yarn prices, buyers are not interested in paying extra."
The home textile sector posted robust growth in the July-February period and earned $730 million, up by 39% from $526 million in the same period a year ago.
Fatullah Apparels Chief Executive Officer Fazlee Shamim Ehsan said the apparel price fall and yarn price hike are the major challenges for the clothing industry.
He said policy measures from the government are required to support the industry so that it can survive till the market shows a positive trend.
Of the major sectors, jute and jute goods earned $863 million in the July-February period, up by 23.67% from $698 million in the same period of the previous fiscal year. Earnings from leather and leather products declined by 4.15% to $606 million.
Non-leather footwear exports declined a little and earned about $219 million while frozen and live fish export earnings fell by 10.28%, reaching $338 million.
Agricultural product exports posted a slight fall of 0.4%, reaching $665 million compared to $667 million during the same period of the previous financial year.
Earnings from the pharmaceuticals sector, which is emerging, increased by 11.31% and stood at $108 million compared to $98 million during the same period of the previous financial year.
Export earnings of plastic goods decreased by 4.5% to $73 million, which was $75 million in the same period of the previous fiscal year.