The country's apparel exports to its single largest destination -- the United States -- stood at US$6.36 billion during the first eleven months (January to November) of 2021.
The earnings were 30.68 per cent or US$1.49 billion higher compared to $4.86 billion in the corresponding period of 2020, according to OTEXA, an affiliate of the US Department of Commerce.
High demand for the locally made readymade garment (RMG), especially knit items, since the beginning of Covid-19 pandemic and significant rise in prices of raw materials have helped the exports grow both in terms of volume and value, according to industry insiders.
During the period under review, Bangladesh shipped 2.33 billion square metres of apparel items, up by 34.37 per cent from 1.73 billion square metres in the same period of 2020.
Bangladesh's main competitors China and Vietnam also witnessed 27.29 per cent and 12.73 per cent growth respectively.
Gradual economic recovery aided by the Covid-19 vaccination coverage, better control over coronavirus infection and a shift of orders from China due to the trade war between US and China have contributed to the double digit growth, exporters said.
The US buyers, who were very 'conservative' in purchasing apparel items due to the pandemic, have placed increased orders to cater for their growing demands while many of them have shifted from China and Vietnam due to the trade tension and Covid-led factory closure respectively, they noted.
Besides, Bangladesh is now in a better position with its capacity and safety compliance to supply the products, they added.
After the Rana Plaza building collapse in 2013, Bangladesh's apparel exports to the US declined to $4.83 billion in 2014, which was $4.95 billion in 2013, according to official data.
Since then apparel exports to the US saw ups and downs and stood at $5.92 billion in 2019.
But the exports again declined to $5.22 billion in 2020 mainly due to the pandemic.
However, the overall apparel imports of USA from across the world during the January to November period of 2021 also increased by 25.43 per cent to US$ 74.28 billion from $59.23 billion during the same period of 2020, data showed.
During January to November of 2021, the US imported apparels worth $17.90 billion from China and $13.20 billion from Vietnam.
Apparel exports from other major sourcing destinations like India, Pakistan and Honduras grew by 35.47 per cent, 59.30 per cent and 47.10 per cent respectively.
Cambodia and Indonesia's exports to the US saw 19.86 per cent and 14.11 per cent growth respectively, according to data.
When asked, Fazlul Hoque, former president of Bangladesh Knitwear Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BKMEA), said the demand from US buyers for the knit items went up between the end of 2020 and the beginning of 2021.
"We the knitters were mostly focused on the EU market due to the duty-free facility there," he observed.
But the trade war between US and China and the changing pattern of apparel use mostly due to Covid-19 have prompted the buyers to source from Bangladesh, he explained.
Talking to the FE, Fazlee Shamim Ehsan, vice president of BKMEA, said the Covid-induced factory closure in Vietnam also shifted the buyers here in Bangladesh.
"The US's overall import increased and so from Bangladesh," he said.
Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA) president Faruque Hassan in a recent dialogue, however, said that though they were worried over the US sanctions on RAB and some officials, the garment trade between the two countries might not be affected.
"We're concerned… but we're doing our part and don't want to lose any market or buyers," he said.
He added: "We have good relations with our buyers and hope that there will be no sanction on us," he said on an upbeat note.
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