The ready-made garments industry – the largest export-earning sector in the country – is looking to brighter days ahead as foreign buyers themselves are speaking about increasing imports from Bangladesh by recognising the country as a good sourcing destination.
Besides, China's dominance in the world apparel export market has begun to decline.
This is the backdrop against which entrepreneurs in this sector have attached importance to attracting foreign buyers to Bangladesh by branding the country around the world.
They think stakeholders concerned in the world apparel sector are mostly in the dark about the huge progress that Bangladesh has made in terms of compliance over the past few years, and they still have in their minds the image of the Rana Plaza incident or the garment sector of Bangladesh in its earlier period. As a result, the Bangladeshi clothing industry is still lagging behind its competitors in terms of bargaining.
With an improvement in the Covid situation, the Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA) will hold a "Made in Bangladesh Week 2022" this November by ensuring the participation of all parties, including brands, buyers, and fashion giants, of the world garment sector.
The main event will be a five-day one where the organisers will highlight the progress of Bangladesh's garment sector over the past four decades, especially how the sector has evolved from being non-compliant to one of the world's most compliant and to a green factory hub following the Rana Plaza collapse in 2013. Representatives from the international arena will also be shown around the factories.
At the same time, the International Apparel Federation (IAF) will organise the 37th World Fashion Convention in collaboration with the BGMEA and the Bangladesh Knitwear Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BKMEA).
There will be more events, such as the IAF Convention, Bangladesh Apparel Expo, Denim Expo, Dhaka Apparel Summit, workshops, seminars, fashion shows, NBR and innovation awards.
About five months ahead of this year's "Made in Bangladesh Week", the BGMEA will hold a press conference in Dhaka today in the presence of representatives of the International Apparel Federation to announce details about the event.
Md Shahidullah Azim, vice-president of the BGMEA, told The Business Standard that because of a lack of branding of Bangladesh's apparel sector, exporters here get a maximum of $7 for a product that exporters from even Turkey can sell at $8 to $8.5.
"But we can also be in a better position in terms of getting prices if our progress and the ability to make high-value garments are properly presented to them.
"We now want to brand Bangladesh by presenting the real picture of our garment sector to the world. To this end, we are going to hold the biggest event ever through the 'Made in Bangladesh Week'," he added.
BGMEA sources said they expect Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina to inaugurate the event. The BGMEA has already written to the premier twice on the probability of her inaugurating the week.
Besides, in a recent letter to the commerce minister, BGMEA President Faruque Hassan sought the ministry's help in making the event a success.
Referring to the various programmes that will be organised during the "Made in Bangladesh Week", the letter mentions that the gala event is aimed at giving international participants an opportunity to experience the transformation the industry has gone through.
"Through these programmes, we will be portraying the development of Bangladesh, as well as what should be our strategic direction, the aim being to come by bigger opportunities. The event will be crucial in having the vision of export-led economic growth realised," reads the letter.
More than 80% of Bangladesh's export earnings come from the readymade garments sector.
In the fiscal 2020-21, export income from the sector was about $31.45 billion, but the figure has crossed the $35 billion mark in the first 10 months of the current financial year, with a 36% year-on-year growth. Industry insiders expect it to reach $42 billion by the end of the fiscal year.
Besides, China, the top-ranked global clothing exporter, is gradually reducing garment exports, which has created immense potential for Bangladesh in the coming days. Foreign buyers are also discussing this possibility.
Speaking to reporters at the Sustainable Apparel Forum held in Dhaka on Tuesday, Ziaur Rahman, head of the Bangladesh, Pakistan, and Ethiopia region for the Swedish retail giant H&M, said buyers are happy that Bangladesh will remain the favourable sourcing destination for apparel items as the industry is able to produce almost all items as per buyers' requirements.
He observed that it is possible for Bangladesh to take its export earnings from the apparel sector to $100 billion within the next 10 years.
"The industry has become more mature over the last 40 years and now it has a unique entrepreneurship," he said.
Meanwhile, entrepreneurs have started making large investments in the textile sector, a backward linkage of the readymade garment industry, anticipating the possibility of a significant increase in RMG exports in the coming days.
By 2024, 2.5 million new spindles will be added to the local textile industry, bringing in about $2.5 billion in new investment.