Footwear sector rising as prime export earner
The demand of the footwear manufactured in the country is gradually increasing as well as contributing to substantial export earnings, which is a good sign for the economy.
The export of the sector increased by almost 10 times over the last decade as the export earning was US$495 million in 2015-16, which was from $68 million in 2004, according to the data of Export Promotion Bureau (EPB).
Bangladesh is holding the fourth position in producing footwear products in the international market, industry insiders said. At this moment, Bangladesh only holds one per cent of this market, they said.
Though the readymade garment (RMG) industry has become the single largest export earner for Bangladesh, experts opine that the footwear sector has the potentials to get as bigger as the apparel industry, said Md Saiful Islam, President, Leathergoods & Footwear Manufacturers and Exporters Association of Bangladesh (LFMEAB) told journalists.
Currently the sector has a very potential global market, which is about $240 billion annually, is for all types of footwear like leather made, manmade leather and denim or other fabrics, he informed.
"If our entrepreneurs concentrate on manufacturing all types of footwear, the earnings from footwear could surpass the proceeds fetched by RMG products. If we are able to supply at least 10 to 20 per cent of the footwear products in the global market, we can earn $40 to $50 billion export earnings from the sector by one decade", he also said.
China, the current market leader in footwear exports is facing problems in this sector and they are not doing better in footwear manufacturing and this is one of the main reasons for the slide in the country's leather exports in the recent times, he explained.
The rising labour costs in China have made big retailers look to the countries like Vietnam, the Philippines, India, Pakistan and Bangladesh, he opined.
Bangladesh has become an attractive destination for leather sector due to available good quality raw hides when the low labour cost has become an advantage for them, said the LFMEAB president.
Some international investors have set up footwear manufacturing factories in the local Export Processing Zones (EPZs) and the government is providing various incentives for the foreign stakeholders to expand their business in the country, he added.
M Abu Taher, former chairman of Bangladesh Finished Leather, Leathergoods and Footwear Exporters' Association said the government allocated plots to 155 tannery owners at the industrial estate to relocate their units. "If we can use our 100 per cent capacity the industrial estate may boost the sector's export earnings up to $ 5 billion," he hoped.
Currently, Bangladesh exports footwear to over 50 countries, including the EU, China, Japan, Korea, Canada and North America. The EU is the largest export destination of Bangladesh's footwear industry. And the majority of leather (54 per cent) is exported to the EU market.