January 4, 2018 / 12:56 PM / 14 days ago

UPDATE 1-Bangladesh December exports up 8.4 pct y/y, lifted by garment sales

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DHAKA, Jan 4 (Reuters) - Bangladesh’s exports in December rose 8.4 percent from a year earlier to $3.35 billion, boosted by stronger garment sales, official data showed on Thursday.

For July-December, the first half of the 2017-18 financial year, exports rose 7.15 percent from a year earlier to $17.9 billion, the Export Promotion Bureau said.

Shipments of key garments, comprising knitwear and woven items, totalled $14.8 billion in July-December, up 7.75 percent from a year earlier.

Garments are the main foreign-exchange earner for the South Asian country, where low wages and duty-free access to Western markets have helped make it the world’s second-largest apparel exporter after China.

The government has set an export target of $37.5 billion for the 2017-18 financial year, with ready-made garments earning $30.16 billion.

Bangladesh is on track to achieve the target, say garment exporters.

They say buyers are happy with the reforms in the sector and that there was no impact on orders or shipments from a July 2016 attack on a cafe in Dhaka’s diplomatic quarter in which 22 people were killed, mostly foreigners.

The garment industry had been recovering strongly from a major tragedy four years ago, when a factory building collapsed, killing more than 1,100 people and prompting safety checks that led to factory closures and the loss of exports and jobs.

Exports in the previous financial year to June rose 1.7 percent from a year earlier to $34.7 billion, but that was the slowest growth in 15 years, with garment sales up just 0.2 percent.

For the lacklustre growth in the previous financial year, exporters blamed a number of factors, including sluggish demand in main markets, structural reforms in the garment sector, a weak euro and appreciation of the Bangladeshi currency against the dollar.

The central bank left key interest rates unchanged in July, saying it was trying to balance economic growth and inflation risks.

Bangladesh’s economic growth hit a record 7.28 percent in the 2016-17 financial year, while the government aims to boost it to 7.4 percent in the current financial year. (Reporting by Ruma Paul; Editing by Subhranshu Sahu)

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