By  on August 11, 2014

DHAKA (Reuters) — Bangladesh's exports fell 1.4 percent in July from a year earlier, government data showed on Monday, the first decline since August 2012.

Exports totalled $2.98 billion in July, the first month of the 2014/15 financial year, 2 percent below the target, the Export Promotion Bureau said.

Readymade garments, comprising knitwear and woven items, fetched $2.517 billion in July, compared with almost the same, $2.516 billion, a year ago.

Exports in the year to June hit a record $30 billion, up 11 percent from the previous year, on the back of stronger garment sales.

However, the garment industry has been under the spotlight after a string of fatal factory accidents, including the collapse of a building housing factories in April 2013 that killed more than 1,130 people.

Bangladesh's exports in the 2014-15 financial year are expected to rise 10 percent from a year earlier to $33.20 billion.

Garment exports for the current financial year have been fixed at $26.9 billion, up 10 percent from the previous year's $24.5 billion when clothing sales surged 14 percent.

Garments are a vital sector for Bangladesh.

Its low wages and, critics say, shortcuts on safety, make it the cheapest place to make large quantities of clothing and the second-largest exporter of readymade garments.

It also enjoys duty-free access to Western markets,

Last year, the government raised the minimum wage for garment workers by 77 percent to 5,300 taka ($68) a month and amended the labour law to boost workers' rights.

But despite that, frequent strikes over wages are hampering the sector's growth.

The industry accounts for 80 percent of Bangladesh's exports and employs nearly 4 million workers, most of them women.

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