Bangladesh's ready-made garment exports are continuing to soar, rising by nearly 20% in the first-half of the current fiscal year despite ongoing political uncertainty, labour unrest and factory safety issues.

Apparel exports climbed to US$11.9bn in the six months from July to December, up from $9.95bn a year earlier - and exceeding targets set at $11.28bn.  

Woven garment exports grew by 20.4% to $5.98bn during the period, from $4.97bn last year. Knitwear exports increased by 19.6% to $5.95bn from $4.97bn, according to statistics from the state-run Export Promotion Bureau (EPB).

However, Mohammad Hatem, vice president of the Bangladesh Knitwear Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BKMEA), told just-style that figures "do not reflect the real scenario of the country's apparel sector as these orders were placed covering period from May to July last year."

Instead, he said, it will take at least another three months "to see the real situation of the RMG sector."

The BKMEA leader also said the apparel sector is now in a critical situation following frequent blockades and shutdowns, enforced by opposition parties in the recent months in the run-up to this month's parliamentary election.

Bangladesh's low labour costs have helped it secure business from international apparel brands and retailers like Gap, Tesco, JC Penney, Wal-Mart, H&M, Kohl's and Marks & Spencer.

A senior official at the EPB told just-style that demand for Bangladeshi apparel products is still high in the global market due mainly to competitive prices. 

The government has set an export target of $30.5bn for fiscal year 2014, which began on 1 July.