Achieving $50 billion in garment exports by 2021 is possible if Bangladesh can create an adequate number of skilled manpower in design and provide all kinds of apparel solutions to retailers, a leading garment maker said yesterday.
“We can go beyond this level,” said David Hasanat, chairman and CEO of Viyellatex Group, while presenting a keynote paper at a roundtable on '$50 billion export target and the role of CEBAI'.
CEBAI or the Centre of Excellence for Bangladesh Apparel Industry was created in December 2014 to provide training for the purpose of creating skilled manpower.
For starters, Bangladesh must produce an adequate number of designers as the majority of the garment manufacturers mass-produce the designs supplied by retailers.
“We have to provide garment solutions and not only produce the basic garment items. We have to supply all kinds of apparel items made by our own people,” Hasanat said.
Currently, less than one percent of the manufacturers provide design support to buyers, he said.
Every year more than 20,000 expatriate experts are taking away $5 billion from Bangladesh only because of shortage of skilled and technical manpower in the country. The amount that the foreign experts are taking away from Bangladesh every year is bigger than the net profit made by the local garment exporters, he said.
“The local apparel exporters make net profits of $3 billion but the foreign experts are taking away $5 billion. So, we need to create skilled manpower for higher quality and high-end garment products.”
Apart from skilled manpower, Hasanat suggested addressing the challenges
such as occupational safety, power and gas supply, improving port services and transportations, market diversification and political stability.
Bangladesh is the second largest exporter of garment items in the world, with a 6 percent share of the $450 billion global market. China is the number one exporter with a 39 percent share.
The huge gap between the two implies that Bangladesh has the scope to increase its garment exports manifold through diversification and value addition, Hasanat said.
Bangladesh has three of the world's LEED certified green buildings; and seven of the 10 top-rated green buildings in the world are in Bangladesh, according to the Viyellatex chief.
“Having such top-rated factory buildings help in the branding of the country,” he added.
Bangladesh has the opportunity to export garment items to neighbouring countries like China, India, South Korea and Japan, said Faruque Hassan, vice-president of the Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association.
Save for the European Union, the US and Canada, Bangladesh considers all other markets to be non-traditional ones.
“So, we have the opportunities for further expansion of our markets.”
Between 2002 and 2005, Bangladesh's garment exports to the non-traditional markets stood at 2 percent; it reached 15 percent in 2015.
The sector should also diversify its products, he said. Trousers, T-shirts and formal shirts account for 79 percent of total garment products exported in a year.
However, with the recent endeavours of manufacturers, export of suits, sportswear, swimwear and blazers have been increasing, Hassan added.
Atiqul Islam, president of the CEBAI, also spoke.