The leather industry aims to cross the $1-billion mark in export earnings this fiscal year as the sector is witnessing a robust demand for leather and leather goods in the global market.
The manufacturers said they will reach the export target at $1.04 billion set by the government for this year.
Their earnings fell short by only 3.58 percent of the last year's target at $792.34 million.
The industry earned $451 million by exporting leather, leather products and footwear during July-December this fiscal year, up by 20 percent compared to the same period last year.
“We are very optimistic about the export growth of leather goods during the current fiscal year as many new buyers from the US are showing interest in our products,” said Tipu Sultan, managing director of Bengal Leather Complex.
The rising labour costs in China have forced the US buyers to come to Bangladesh, he said.
Though the Bangladeshi workers have lower productivity compared to the international standards, they are still competitive.
“We need to pay $180-$200 for two workers a month, while the amount is $400-$450 for each worker in China,” said Sultan.
The exports of leather products made by Bengal Leather Complex rose by 6 percent to Tk 140 crore in fiscal 2011-12.
The company aims a 15 percent growth this year, said Sultan, who is also a former chairman of Bangladesh Finished Leather, Leather Goods & Footwear Exporters Association.
Improved quality has helped win confidence of more buyers, said Saiful Islam, a former president of Leathergoods and Footwear Manufacturers and Exporters Association of Bangladesh.
“We are receiving an increasing number of queries from Japan as we maintain higher product standards,” said Islam.
Bangladesh exported leather goods worth $73 million during the July-December period, up by 107 percent compared to the same period last year, according to Export Promotion Bureau.
The country registered a higher export growth in leather goods as the companies are now focusing more on value-added products, said Belal Hossain, chairman of Bangladesh Finished Leather, Leather Goods and Footwear Exporters' Association.
“We are optimistic about reaching the export target set by the EPB for the leather sector,” said Shaheen Ahmed, a former president of Bangladesh Tanners Association.
He said their competitive prices and higher standards of products have attracted the international buyers.
Bangladesh exports leather products mainly to Italy, New Zealand, Poland, the UK, Belgium, France, Germany, the US, Canada and Spain.
Also, India, Nepal, Australia and some other countries are emerging as the potential importers of Bangladeshi leather goods.
Proper policy support and skills development of the workforce can fuel the growth in exports of leather goods, Islam said.