Fierce competition from African and Caribbean clothing producers has triggered the first fall in Bangladeshi garment exports in more than 20 years, worried industry officials revealed on Tuesday.

Clothing exports fell 5.7 per cent to $4.58 billion in the year to June compared to the year-ago period amid the global economic slowdown and increased competition from rival apparel-making countries.

The Bangladesh Garments Manufacturers and Exports Association (BGMEA) said the EU was its biggest customer with a 52.7 per cent slice of the market, followed by the US with a 40 per cent share.

It added the slump in export orders has led to 300,000 garment workers losing their jobs as more than 1,000 garment plants have been forced to close down in the past year.