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Month's growth over 26pc to $4.84b after two months’ slump

Export rebounds with quantum leap in May

July-May export growth 7.11pc to $50.52b

FE REPORT | June 05, 2023 00:00:00

Bangladesh sees its external trade rebound with single-month export earnings recording over 26-percent growth to US$4.84 billion in May after a consecutive two-month slump, raising slim hopes amid the country's forex woes.

The Export Promotion Bureau (EPB) came up with such data Sunday-at a time when people exasperate amid energy-sapping load-shedding in high summer as some of the country's power plants switch off or scale down operation for want of fuels that cannot be imported in time reportedly for dollar crunch.

According to the EPB data, the May 2023 earnings were US$1.0 billion higher than the US$3.83 billion earned in May 2022.

There had been a negative trade growth of 16.52 per cent and 2.49 per cent in last April and March respectively, adding up to the country's balance-of-payments deficit and hence pressures on its falling foreign-exchange reserves.

The May earnings, however, yet fell short of the month's target by 5.29 per cent.

The overall merchandise shipments during the first eleven months of the current fiscal year 2022-23 marked a modest growth of 7.11 per cent to US$50.52 billion.

Out of this amount, readymade garment (RMG) exports fetched US$42.63 billion -- true to the sector's perennial predominance in export -- posting a growth of 10.67 per cent in the July-May period.

And the apparel sector's earnings slightly exceeded the target set for the July-May period of FY23, by 0.76 per cent.

In the corresponding period of FY22, the country earned US$ 38.52 billion from apparel exports.

In the first eleven months of the outgoing fiscal, the knitwear subsector of RMG earned US$ 23.27 billion, registering a growth of 10.92 per cent, while earnings from woven garments amounted to US$ 19.35 billion, up by 10.36 per cent.

However, major sectors like frozen and live fishes, agricultural products, chemicals including pharmaceuticals, home textiles, jute and jute goods, and engineering products did not perform well during the period, as they witnessed negative growth.

Home textiles witnessed about 30.14-percent negative growth, with earnings amounting to US$ 1.02 billion.

When asked, Bangladesh Knitwear Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BKMEA) vice-president Fazlee Shamim Ehsan claimed that in May factories were closed for about 14 days due to May Day and Eid holidays, resulting in almost half the production suspended.

"As a result, data showed growth last month," he explained.

The trade-association leader, however, said they received less work orders for several months and factories were running 20 to 30 per cent below their capacity.

Echoing Mr Ehsan's view, Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA) vice-president Mohammad Shahidullah Azim said buyers also deferred some orders that were shipped last May.

He also attributed such high growth of over 26 per cent in May-2023 earnings to depressed growth in May 2022 that witnessed two-week-long holidays.

According to the EPB data, jute sector, which had demonstrated positive growth throughout the last fiscal year, experienced negative growth during the first eleven months of this fiscal year.

During the period, exports of jute and jute goods dropped 19.57 per cent to US$ 848.6 million from US$ 1.05 billion in the same period of the last fiscal year.

Earnings from agricultural items like vegetables, fruits, and dry foods witnessed a negative growth of about 27.78 per cent to US$ 795.01 million during the July-May period of FY23.

According to the data from the EPB, engineering product shipments declined by 27.79 per cent to US$ 518.97 million.

Export earnings from frozen and live fishes decreased by 18.82 per cent to US$ 399.09 million in the same period.

Earnings from pharmaceutical exports stood at US$ 161.17 million, registering a 7.96-percent negative growth in tandem with the losing lot.

Bangladesh received US$1.12 billion from the export of leather and leather goods in the July-May period of FY23, registering a meagre 0.42-percent growth.

Earnings from footwear other than leather items, however, grew by 6.21 per cent to US$ 433.53 million during the period.

The EPB data also showed exports of plastic products having witnessed a 33.55- percent growth to US$ 190.95 million.

Meanwhile, some economists and analysts are of the view that export proceeds are not fully repatriated and there are cases of trade mis-invoicing. So, they say, accurate export figures are hard to get by.

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