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Bangladesh Exports Up Despite Problems

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Bangladesh exports jumped 15.43% in May compared to 2012, to $2.54 billion. The increase came largely from higher clothing sales, said the Bangladesh Export Promotion Bureau, Sunday.

Garment exports for the 11 months ending in May were almost $19.3 billion, a 12% jump from a year earlier. The increase came despite increasing concerns about safety and working conditions in the sector, following the Rana Plaza collapse, and earlier incidents including the Tazreen Fashions fire in November.

Efforts to reform the industry are underway, amid speculation that buyers are becoming reluctant to work in the country. Sunday’s data contradicts that theory. Much of the clothing exports reported were based on orders placed after the Tazreen Fashions fire, which killed 112 people and was the worst industrial disaster in Bangladeshi history. That disaster has since been eclipsed by the April collapse of Rana Plaza, which killed over 1,100 people.

Exports of all goods for the 11 months ending in May were $24.32 billion, up from $21.97 billion for the same period in 2012.

The European Union offers duty free access to Bangladeshi exporters, which has driven a remarkable boom in exports that has placed the country among the top garment makers in the world. The recent tragedies have put this status in jeopardy, however, as western governments have tied continued trade preferences to improvements in conditions and safety. It remains to be seen whether the moral outrage sparked by the Rana Plaza collapse will have an impact on exports down the road.

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