Apparel makers stress manmade fibres, new markets to achieve $100b export target

Bangladesh’s apparel industry needs to increase production of manmade fiber-based items, explore new markets, and attract more investment in the textile industry to reach the $100 billion export target by 2030, said garment and textile sector leaders on Sunday.

While speaking at a parallel session of the Bangladesh Business Summit 2023 on its second day, they said overconcentration to five core items – trousers, T-shirts, sweaters, shirts and blouses, and underwear – and two markets – Europe and the USA – is one of the major challenges for the Bangladesh apparel industry.

They also mentioned that investment in skills development, design, innovation, efficiency, and recycling technology is also important for the Bangladesh textile and clothing industry to achieve its goal.

At the session, styled “Towards a $100 Billion Apparel and Textile Sector: Leveraging Sustainability, Competitiveness, and Investment Opportunities”, Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association President Faruque Hassan said that the Russia-Ukraine war-driven high inflation in developed countries and climate changes are also the top risks for Bangladesh apparel industry.

Bangladesh’s apparel industry needs more investment in the backward linkage industry to develop a strong artificial fibre base as the global demand has been changing towards non-cotton and circular fashion products, he said.

Faruque Hassan also emphasised apparel diplomacy to gain more global market share saying that overconcentration to a few products and markets was a concern for the country.

In the keynote paper Azizur Rahman Chowdhury, director of the Bangladesh Textile Mills Association said that investing in sustainability, increasing competitiveness, and leveraging investment opportunities are the key to achieving $100 billion in textile and clothing exports by 2030.

He said that Bangladesh has a scope to increase its apparel export by $58 billion by receiving 10% of the China market valued at $16 billion, 10% of the EU market valued at $17 billion, exporting technical textiles worth $10 billion, and World Growth Potential about 8% valued at $15 billion.

At the same time, the industry should graduate from low-value-added products to value-added products, he added.

Mohammad Ali Khokon, president of the Bangladesh Textile Mills Association, said clothing made of synthetic materials, technical textiles, and other diversified sustainable items could play a significant role in achieving $100 billion in export earnings from RMG by 2030

Investment in man-made fibre is rising considerably and policymakers should pay attention to its expansion, he said.

Shafiul Islam Mohiuddin, a member of the parliament and also a former president of the BGMEA, stressed a unified code of conduct from global buyers for social compliance audits saying the industry was struggling with inspection fatigue.

Regarding workers’ wages in the readymade garment sector, he said the minimum wages are being reviewed every five years by the minimum wage board.

The process for reviewing wages has started as a five-year period has gone past since the last review.

Mohammad Hatem, executive president of the Bangladesh Knitwear Manufacturers and Exporters Association, also urged the brands and buyers for a unified certification system for the RMG industry.

Bangladesh’s garment industry can improve its competitiveness by developing a comprehensive supply chain that includes backward and forward linkages together, he said.

Sree Devi Kalavakonalu, senior director of Walmart, mentioned that the world is facing a challenge of how to increase production volume in a sustainable manner, adding that all companies should think about how to improve the sustainability of their textile supply chain.

“Walmart is working with its suppliers, NGOs, and other stakeholders to improve the sustainability of our textile supply chain,” Sree Devi said.

Speaking at the session, Textile and Jute Minister Golam Dastagir Gazi suggested that the textile and RMG sector leaders go to the prime minister with their demands in writing before the formulation of the forthcoming national budget.

He said the government increased the price of gas with the consent of businesses to reduce subsidies in the sector as the energy price increased abnormally on the global market.

The minister also said that the gas supply has improved and normal supply would be ensured within the next one or two weeks.

Asif Ashraf, a BGMEA director, said automation, technological upgradation, skills development of workers, and policy support from the government including incentives in MMF are needed to achieve the $100 billion export earnings target by 2030.