The first quarter of fiscal 2012-13 saw a rise in garment exports to non-traditional markets, an encouraging sign for the sector hurt by economic crises at its traditional markets.
Exports to 11 new destinations stood at $527.61 million in the first quarter of the current fiscal year, up 28.6 percent from the last fiscal year's $410.12 million, according to data from the Export Promotion Bureau.
Following the onset of financial crisis in 2007, Bangladesh started looking for new destinations to offset the fall in exports to the traditional markets in the US, European Union and Canada.
Australia, Brazil, Chile, China, India, Japan, South Korea, Mexico, Russia, South Africa and Turkey are looking to be the more promising markets, followed by Malaysia, New Zealand, Norway, Saudi Arabia and Thailand.
Of the total export to the new markets, woven items registered a 30.76 percent rise to $280.61 million, while knitwear, at $247 million, was 26.32 percent higher than last year.
The Russian market, which raked in $16.26 million of exports during the quarter, showed the highest growth.
Turkey, on the other hand, registered a negative growth of 9.21 percent on the back of the 17.5 percent duty imposed by the Turkish government this year on imports from Bangladesh.
Exports to the EU, Bangladesh's largest garment export destination, fell 0.38 percent year-on-year to $2.89 billion in the three months to September.
Mustafizur Rahman, executive director of Centre for Policy Dialogue, said besides the ongoing financial crisis in the EU, the declining price of cotton and the shortening of the winter period are also responsible for the slowdown of exports to the region.
The worrying matter is that, Rahman said, exports to the four main markets of the EU -- Germany, UK, France and Italy -- have also been affected this time.
“Any slowdown in the EU will have a negative impact on all exports of the country,” the trade analyst said, adding the current export condition brings into focus the need for continued exploration of new destinations.
Additionally, Bangladesh must increase its competitiveness via increased productivity to grab a bigger pie of the Eurozone market from China, who is on the back foot due to rising costs of production, he said.
“Not least, Bangladesh enjoys a zero-duty access to the EU.”
If the EU debt crisis prolongs, the country's share of the pie will shrink further, said Faruque Hassan, vice-president of Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association.
“But we will continue to perform well in the new destinations as we have managed to penetrate them.”