Bangladesh’s garment exports to its largest market, the United States, doubled over the past five years to reach $9.75 billion in 2022, which industry insiders have attributed to the country’s starting to produce high-value clothing and receiving a substantial share of orders that were shifted from China.
An analysis of data from the Office of Textile and Apparels (Otexa) under the US Department of Commerce shows that garment imports by the US increased by nearly 28% in the period between 2017 and 2022 to stand at almost $100 billion.
During the same period, China’s garment exports to the US decreased by around 20%, although the country remains the top supplier.
Mohammad Hatem, executive president of the Bangladesh Knitwear Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BKMEA), told The Business Standard, “We have gained the confidence of buyers by producing goods on time and according to their demands. As a result, some US buyers are shifting their orders from China to Bangladesh.”
While Bangladesh was previously known for producing basic items, its capacity to manufacture high-value apparel has expanded significantly, attracting buyers from the US and other markets, he added.
According to Otexa data, despite being the second-largest contributor to US apparel imports, Bangladesh’s share is still less than 10% of the total.
Among the top 10 countries exporting garments to the US in 2022, Bangladesh experienced the highest year-on-year growth rate of 36.38%. Meanwhile, China’s exports increased by 10.83%, and Vietnam’s by 27%.
Although Bangladesh holds the second position globally in apparel exports, it ranks third in the US market. Even so, experts believe there is potential for further growth in the US market.
For this reason, Bangladeshi apparel manufacturers and exporters are being encouraged to establish stronger relationships with US buyers who haven’t yet shifted to Bangladesh or those importing smaller quantities.
“We still have a number of US brands yet to source from Bangladesh or are sourcing at a limited scale. So, while we urge for diversifying our markets, we think we still have a huge scope of specialisation in the existing ones,” Faruque Hassan, president of the Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA), told TBS.
“Since the share of Bangladesh in USA’s apparel import is only 9.75%, we have a huge opportunity to increase the share further. Bangladesh has already gained the top position in USA’s denim import very recently,” he added.
Based on Otexa data, China, the leading apparel exporter, experienced a nearly 20% decline in exports to the US over the 2018-2022 period.
Meanwhile, the second-largest exporter, Vietnam, saw a notable 58% increase in exports during the same period.
India, ranked fourth among top garment exporters to the US after Bangladesh, witnessed a 54% surge in exports.
Indonesia’s exports rose by 23%, Cambodia’s by 102%, Honduras’ by 29%, Mexico’s by 11%, and Pakistan’s by an impressive 117%.
However, exports by South Korea, another nation in the top 10 exporters’ list, did not increase during this five-year span.