The country's merchandise exports exceeded the pre-Covid-19 level in December, showing a rebound in shipment, despite sluggish import.
Some 55,905 twenty-foot equivalent units were shipped in December, 2020, up by 5,730 TEUs from pre-COVID-19 month of February, 2020, according to Bangladesh Inland Container Depots Association (BICDA) statistics, a group of 18 privately-owned inland depots.
The depots handle almost 100 per cent export as the final procedures including loading of goods at the depots.
However, this is the statistics relating to volume, not values. The state-run Export Promotion Bureau said the shipment values have increased by less than 1.0 per cent during July-November, 2020 period.
The rising trend in shipments was also seen during the first 15 days of this month-January, 2021. During the first 15 days, a total of 25,461 TEUs were shipped from the depots, also called dry-ports.
Depot operators said the country's exports may boom in May or June next as they found some early signs of a V-shaped recovery by the middle of this year.
They said the analysis of the data and the communication with the forwarders show that the export may boom during May-June.
"Shipment is quite OK, even much higher than the pre-pandmeic period," Nurul Qayyum Khan, president at the BICDA, told the FE on Wednesday.
But, the BGMEA, the clothing sector lobby group, has been saying that the shipment is still lower than what was exported before the new coronavirus arrived in the country in early March.
"We foresee the shipment may boom from May-June provided the ongoing second wave will be stable following vaccination," said Mr. Khan, also managing director at the QNS, an off-dock operator, told the FE.
Bangladesh's exports were impacted by the COVID-19 as the country's key overseas merchandise sales markets were in intermittent lockdowns after the outbreak of the coronavirus
Md Ruhul Amin, secretary at the BICDA, said that Bangladesh's export has been increasing since June last.
The current level of export-handling by the depots is either equal or above the pre-pandemic level, he said.
He said April and May were the worst months for shipment as the export handling almost halved during the period.
In the meantime, clothing exporters said that the export may boom from July onwards provided that the coronavirus is controlled by the vaccination.
Anwar-ul Alam Chowdhury Pervez, a former BGMEA president, told the FE, "Some may predict on the October and November data, but January and February orders are much lower as many retail chains are still shut in Europe and America."
He said the order for necessary or basic clothing is quite normal.
"The order for formal shirts and luxury clothing remained poor", he said.
He said February and March will be tough for the clothing industry and it will start to grow from July.
The EPB data shows that the value of export during July-November expanded by 0.93 per cent to US$15.9 billion.
On the other hand, import values contracted by nearly 9.0 per cent to $20.2 billion during July-November, according to Bangladesh Bank statistics.