Bangladesh's garment exports rose 20 per cent year-on-year in the nine months to March amid rising orders from Europe and Canada and the SARS crisis in China, industry chiefs revealed on Tuesday.

The Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association said those rises were helped by the SARS outbreak which forced many clothing firms to switch orders to countries which avoided the crisis.

It added in volume terms, Bangladesh exported 105.5 million dozens of garments versus 87.9 million dozens in the year-ago period.

Clothing exports are Bangladesh’s main foreign exchange earner with the industry employing around 1.8 million people, the vast majority of which are women.