Value addition has helped the country’s knitwear makers turn T-shirt into the top export item among basic garments, surpassing trousers.
Industry insiders owed this rise in the locally manufactured T-shirt export earnings to a shift in orders to Bangladesh from China for its rising production costs.
Most of the knitters produce cotton T-shirt, they said, but many makers have opted for artificial fibre following the demand for non-cotton products.
Bangladesh fetched $7.01 billion from T-shirt exports in fiscal year 2018-19, according to Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA).
Trousers, once the top earner, earned $6.93 billion, jacket $4.38 billion, sweater $4.25 billion and shirt $2.32 billion in the same fiscal.
BGMEA data shows these five items accounted for around 73 per cent or $24.91 billion out of the total $34.13 billion ready-made garment (RMG) export earnings.
When asked, Plummy Fashion Ltd managing director Fazlul Hoque said it is a good sign that export earnings from the basic item like T-shirt has topped the list.
It indicates that value addition is working fine, he said, adding that T-shirt has been the top in terms of quantity among other RMG exportables.
The unit prices of a T-shirt range from $1.50 to $2 and denim trousers between $7 and $10, Mr Hoque said.
Exporters should ship a huge quantity of T-shirt abroad, he told the FE.
“Washing is the latest phenomenon taking place in local RMG manufacturing and also bringing high value,” said Mr Hoque, also former president of Bangladesh Knitwear Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BKMEA).
Washing helps get better price through value addition in the denim segment, but it is now used in T-shirt manufacturing.
He, however, said washing is quite difficult for T-shirt as it is thinner than jeans.
According to Mr Hoque, such value addition will certainly put a positive impact on the overall export performance in the coming days.
Echoing Mr Hoque, BKMEA vice-president Fazlee Ehsan Shamim said knitters now add stylish segments like embroidery, designed yarn, printing and other accessories to T-shirts.
He, however, said the China-plus move of buyers also help the local makers bag better work orders.
“Although orders are increasing, garment prices are not rising accordingly,” Mr Shamim said, adding that earnings are going up due to value addition.