The country's apparel exports to the United States fell by 12.10 per cent during the first five months of the current calendar year due to the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, exporters have said.
Bangladesh fetched US$2.24 billion through exporting readymade garments (RMG) to the US market during the period from January to May, 2020 as compared to $2.55 billion of the corresponding period of 2019, according to data of the Office of Textiles and Apparel (OTEXA) affiliated with the US Department of Commerce.
During the period, Bangladesh shipped 808 million square metres of apparel items which was 905 million square metres in the same period of last year.
The OTEXA data also showed that the total apparel imports of US in the first five months of this calendar year declined by 27.76 per cent to $23.92 billion which was $33.11 billion in the same period of last year.
China, the largest exporter to US, also witnessed a 49.23 per cent negative growth with earnings $4.61 billion during the period in 2020. The country shipped apparel items worth $9.08 billion during the same period of 2019.
Vietnam's RMG exports to the US declined by 9.36 per cent to $4.81 billion during the period which was $5.30 billion of the corresponding period of 2019.
The US RMG imports from Cambodia, however, increased by 6.45 per cent to $1.07 billion.
The US apparel imports from India fell by 27.08 per cent to $1.42 billion in the first five months of the current calendar year.
Indonesian exports to US also decreased by 15.29 per cent to $ 1.62 billion, data showed.
When asked, Mohammad Hatem senior vice president of Bangladesh Knitwear Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BKMEA), said the country's overall RMG exports witnessed a negative trend during the just concluded fiscal year for a number of internal and external factors.
The ongoing coronavirus outbreak has made the situation worst, he said, explaining that the production remained almost suspended in April while factories in May and June could not use their full capacity.
The factories are currently running at only 50-55 per cent capacity due to maintaining safety requirements and shortage of work orders, he added.
Demands were also slow due to the shutdown of retail shops followed by lockdown in US, he added.
The USA's apparel import has posted a drastic fall by 60.08 per cent in May for the third consecutive month. It's highest ever decline in the post-COVID time, said Dr Rubana Huq, president of the Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA).
While the USA's import from Bangladesh was maintained on the positive side until January-April 2020, the May 2020 had been an apocalyptic month for local exporters in the US market as exports went down by 67.65 per cent in this single month, she added.
Citing data, she said the US import from Bangladesh has been worse than China and Vietnam.
She said Bangladesh performed comparatively well during the initial phase of the COVID-19 outbreak compared to China and Vietnam since the pandemic has hit those two countries earlier than in Bangladesh.
The two countries have been extraordinarily successful in containing the contamination, so they were being able to make faster recovery of their economic activities, she added.
Though Bangladesh has reopened its industry since late April, it is being operated at a safe mode as the infection is still on the rise here, she pointed out.
"Such abnormal decline in imports is not a usual phenomenon and we hope import will bounce back as sales are expected to pick up as lockdowns are being lifted," she noted.