Bangladesh garment exports to US soar in 2022

Reyad Hossain
Bangladesh garment exports to US soar in 2022 Bangladeshis work at a garment factory in Ashulia, near Dhaka, June 29, 2022.

American orders for apparel made in Bangladesh are growing faster than U.S. imports from clothes manufacturing giant China, according to data compiled by the United States Department of Commerce through the first 10 months of 2022.

Garment exporters and economists said Bangladesh was luring buyers in the U.S. and the European Union who have cut back on purchases from China. They said relatively low costs, reliability and easy labor availability are among the reasons for U.S.-based buyers increasing orders from Bangladesh.

“Bangladesh is getting China’s customers,” economist Ahsan H. Mansur told BenarNews.

From January to October last year, the United States imported apparel from Bangladesh valued at about $8.5 billion – representing a 49% jump from imports of Bangladeshi-made garments during the same period in 2021, according to the Office of Textiles and Apparels (OTEXA) at the U.S. Department of Commerce.

By comparison, the U.S. imported $19.3 billion in apparel made in China during the same 10-month period, but that increase was only about 21% over the $16 billion during the same period in 2021.

The OTEXA data showed that the U.S. imported apparel valued at $7.15 billion from Bangladesh and $19.6 billion from China during all of 2021, growth rates of 37% for Bangladesh and 29% for China compared to 2020.   

The ready-made garment industry in Bangladesh is one of the engines of the South Asian country's export economy. The sector employs at least 3 million workers, mostly women, who work for low wages in factories that often have a poor record for workplace safety.  

The growth spurt surprised Mansur, executive director of the Policy Research Institute of Bangladesh, who had predicted that the nation’s exports would continue to decrease until next month.

Meanwhile, the chairman of Bangladesh’s Research and Policy Integration for Development (RAPID), a non-profit and non-partisan research organization, pointed specifically to Beijing’s role on the world stage having a positive effect on Dhaka’s transactions.

“China’s tensions with Western countries has a major role in increasing orders from other countries including Bangladesh. It seems that some major U.S. buyers want to reduce their business with China gradually,” Mohammad Abdur Razzaque told BenarNews.

The leader of garment manufacturer Crony Group, an organization of about 30,000 Bangladeshi garment workers based in Narayanganj, said that appears to be happening.

“We have recently received some orders from some U.S.-based companies who had previously done business with China,” Neela Hosne Ara told BenarNews.

Bangladesh is not the only nation and garment manufacturing hub to benefit from the trend, according to the Bangladesh Knitwear Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BKMEA).

“The Western countries increased export orders in recent months while the ratio of exports orders are now to other countries, specifically Bangladesh and Vietnam,” BKMEA Vice President Fazlee Shamim Ehsan told BenarNews.

Growth expected

In the near future, 55% of U.S. executives expect to import more clothing from Bangladesh over the next two years than from China, Vietnam and other countries, according to a July 2022 survey by the United States Fashion Industry Association (USFIA).

“Respondents’ qualitative comments also show that companies are “minimizing” their apparel sourcing from the country and are also exploring ways to reduce dependence on China’s textile supply,” the USFIA report said.

The U.S. Embassy in Dhaka acknowledged Bangladesh’s role as a trade partner.

“The United States is Bangladesh’s largest export destination, and U.S. garment sector companies increasingly identify Bangladesh among their most important trade and investment partners,” the Embassy said in response to a BenarNews request for comment.

“We value our commercial relationship with Bangladesh, the world’s eighth most populated country in the world, and its place in U.S. commercial imports illustrates the competitive quality of Bangladesh-made products.”

While China remains the world’s top apparel exporter, Bangladesh is in second place.

In December, Bangladesh exports totaled $5.37 billion, of which ready-made garments accounted for $4.66 billion, the most in a single month, according to the Export Promotion Bureau of Bangladesh.


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