According to data from Eurostat, as cited by the Dhaka Tribune, apparel exports to the EU from Bangladesh fell 20.65% in value terms to €17.38bn ($18.81bn) in 2023.

In quantity terms, RMG exports to the EU fell 16.53% to 11.14bn kilograms.

Both knitwear and woven wear exports suffered negative growth, with almost all major apparel suppliers to the EU suffering the effects of dampened demand on the back of high inflation and economic turmoil resulting from the Ukraine-Russia conflict.

The Dhaka Tribune also said exporters blamed high inflation globally and rising interest rates leading to reduced consumer demand, prompting stockpiling by retailers in the EU and deterring them from placing new orders.

While the data shows China remains the top apparel exporter to the EU in value terms, the Asian superpower also experienced a shipment decline of 21.54% to €22.73bn in 2023.

Bangladesh, in 2023, remains the top apparel exporter to the EU in volume terms with China exporting 11.1bn kilograms of RMG items.

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India, Turkey, Vietnam, Cambodia and Pakistan, all booked negative growth of apparel exports to the EU in 2023.

The value of US apparel exports from Bangladesh also fell 25.07% to $7.29bn in 2023.

While the BGMEA did not return request for comment when approached by Just Style, the trade body reportedly told the Dhaka Tribune negative demand was prompted by wars that were causing a surge in interest rates and inflation leading to increased inventory.

The BGMEA also noted while Vietnam is exporting high-value diversified products and so can demand a higher pricepoint, Bangladesh’s reliance on basic item exports “pushed us to the second spot” in terms of value.

Meanwhile in its most recent set of date, Bangladesh’s Export Promotion Bureau noted that for the July-January period of FY 23-24 (Bangladesh’s fiscal year starts in July), global RMG exports increased 3.45% year on year but fell 6.23% against export targets to $28.4m.

In recent months, Bangladesh’s apparel sector has been at the centre of controversy with garment workers embroiled in violent strikes over pay disputes.

In the most recent development, more than 500 workers at Anlima Textile Limited were reportedly protesting the “unfair” termination of co-workers and non-payment of their arrears which has led to “indefinite” closure of the factory.

The BGMEA is also weighing options to grow the country’s apparel export potential and has commissioned a study to establish the readiness of Bangladesh’s apparel sector to “leapfrog” ahead of its competitors with its own online marketplace.