DHAKA, Bangladesh — The apparel and textile industry here hasn’t been immune to the global recession, but Bangladesh’s position as one of the cheapest sourcing nations has shielded it from the worst and even allowed the country to pick up market share.

This story first appeared in the September 22, 2009 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

Bangladesh is the world’s fourth largest apparel exporter behind China, the European Union and Turkey. The country’s apparel exports totaled $12.35 billion last year and the government believes global economic conditions will make more gains possible. The country’s Export Promotion Bureau has set an apparel export target of $14 billion for the fiscal year beginning on July 1. The expectation is that the country will be more price competitive with other leading apparel manufacturing nations, particularly China.

“We have taken the existing situation in rival exporting countries China, Vietnam, Cambodia and India into consideration before fixing the target,” said bureau vice chairman Shahab Ullah.

However, the financial crisis has taken a toll on the industry. Leaders of the Bangladesh Knitwear Manufacturers & Exporters Association, representing some 5,000 factories, and the Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers & Exporters Association, with 1,600 members, said more than 100 factories have been forced to close because of the recession and thousands of others could shut. The groups are seeking government stimulus to support the industry.

“A decision on size of the fund and its usage would be made by October,” said Finance Minister AMA Muhith.

Exporters are looking to diversify their products and the markets they serve.The Japanese market has been a targeted for expansion.

“We are optimistic that Japan will increase buying from Bangladesh,” said Fazlul Hoque, president of the manufacturers and exporters association.

Exports of garments to Japan rose to $74 million in 2008-09 from $28 million of the previous year.

With a boost from Uniqlo, which intends to invest $100 million in Bangladesh for exports to its retail outlets in Japan, as well as its duty free trade status with that nation, Bangladesh hopes to ultimately export product worth $1 billion annually to Japan, Hoque said.

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