Bangladesh's woven garment exports grew by nearly 12% in the first half of the current fiscal year, helped by a shift in orders from China, exporters said.

Woven garment exports rose to US$4.971bn during the six months from July to December, up from $4.457bn in the same period of the previous year.

Knitwear accounted for $4.976bn, a rise of 3.85%, according to statistics from the state-run Export Promotion Bureau (EPB). Knitwear exports moved into positive growth in October, amid signs that global buyers are slowly increasing their orders.

The country's overall exports grew by 7.01% to $12.60bn during the half-year, despite the economic slowdown in the European Union (EU) and the US.

The government has set an export target of $28bn for fiscal year 2013, which began on 1 July 2012.

"We're hopeful about achieving the export target by the end of this fiscal year if the trend continues," a senior official at the EPB told just-style. "We're working continuously to diversify products and markets to increase our exports."

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

"We're receiving a lot of orders from buyers, who are drifting away from China due mainly to higher labour costs there," Fazlul Hoque, former president of the Bangladesh Knitwear Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BKMEA), told just-style.

He also said both the government and garment makers are now trying to explore new markets such as Japan, China, India, Russia, Australia, Brazil and South Africa to further boost the country's export earnings.