DHAKA (Reuters) — Bangladesh’s exports rose 7.4 percent in March from a year earlier to $2.59 billion, increasing for a fifth straight month, driven by stronger sales of ready-made garments, official data showed.
Exports from July to March, the first three quarters of the financial year, rose nearly 3 percent from the same period a year earlier to $22.9 billion, 5 percent short of the target, the Export Promotion Bureau said.
Sales of ready-made garments, comprising knitwear and woven items, totaled $18.63 billion in the July-March period, compared with nearly $18.05 billion a year earlier.
Garments are a vital sector for the South Asian nation, whose low wages and duty-free access to Western markets have helped make it the world’s largest apparel exporter after China.
However, political unrest over the past few months could cast a pall over the garment industry, which has already been under pressure after factory accidents, including the Rana Plaza building collapse in April 2013 that killed more than 1,130 people.
Exporters said achieving growth target would not be possible.
“Buyers are expressing their concern over the current political violence. They are ready to give us more orders but political uncertainty preventing them from placing more orders,” said Shahidullah Azim, vice president of the Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association.
Bangladesh’s exports in the 2014-15 financial year are expected to rise 10 percent from a year earlier to $33.2 billion.
Garment exports for the current financial year have been targeted at $26.9 billion, up 10 percent from previous year’s $24.5 billion when clothing sales surged 14 percent.
“It won’t be possible to achieve the growth target for this current fiscal year,” Azim said.