Garment exports reached $2.7 billion, up 3.05% in January, year on year, and 4.65% month on month, according to RMG Bangladesh. Overall Bangladesh exports (including garments) rose 4 percent to $3.31 billion dollars last month, compared to January 2016, and exports increased 6.43% from December to January though earnings missed the $3.40 billion target.
For the first seven months of the fiscal year, garment exports hit $16.41 billion, which was a 4.12% year on year increase. However, the number fell short of the $17.28 billion earnings target. For the same period, total exports (including garments) reached $20.11 billion, a 4.36% increase over the same period the previous year.
Garment exports to the U.S., the country’s largest importer, slid 1.49% to $5.11 billion from January to November 2016. The sector saw a 5.19% drop in exports to the U.K., it’s third largest importer, in the first six months of the fiscal year.
To achieve the sector’s export target of $50 billion by 2021, more than 12.25% export growth is needed every year.
Also to reach those earnings goals, the country will need address recent labor concerns, which could threaten its trade status with key players like Europe.
Recently, the IndustriALL Global Union, UNI Global Union and the International Trade Union Confederation labor unions have urged the EU to reconsider Bangladesh’s free trade status following government and factory actions in retaliation for workers’ minimum wage demands.
In December, workers went on strike to demand higher wages. Instead, more than 1,500 were fired, 600 were met with criminal charges and 11 workers and labor union representatives were jailed.
The labor unions say this treatment along with the slow progress in improving working conditions violates Bangladesh’s eligibility under the EU’s Generalized System of Preferences (GSP) program.
The response to the strike also prompted the American Apparel and Footwear Association to issue an official plea for Bangladesh to institute a regular and transparent wage review system in order for the country to continue to enjoy a healthy relationship with its member brands.