Bangladesh’s exports in the fiscal year ended in June rose nearly 1.7 per cent from a year earlier, but that was the slowest growth in 15 years, while pivotal garment sales posted only 0.2 per cent growth. The Export Promotion Bureau said on Monday total exports in the 12 months ended June 30 were $34.8 bn. or 5.85 per cent below the target of $37 bn. The annual percentage gain was the smallest since 2001/2002 financial year, when exports contracted as there was a downturn in the global economy.

Readymade garments, comprising knitwear and woven items, earned $28.15 bn. in the year ended June 30. That was 7.34 per cent below the target. Garments are a key foreign-exchange earner for the South Asian nation, whose low wages and duty-free access to western markets have helped make it the world’s second largest apparel exporter after China. But the industry, which supplies many Western brands, came under scrutiny after a string of fatal factory accidents, including a 2013 building collapse that killed more than 1,130 people.

Exporters blamed the lacklustre growth on a number of factors, including sluggish demand in the key markets, structural reforms in the garment sector, a weak euro and appreciation of local currency against the U.S. dollar.