Dhaka, Thursday, 21 January 2021

Bangladesh is still ahead of Vietnam 

Bangladesh is still ahead of Vietnam 

Avijit Biswas :The “Made in Bangladesh” tags on the apparels of the top-notch brands like Marks and Spencer, Zara, Calvin Klein, H&M, C&A and so on make us proud. Industrialists were thinking that the continuous negative growth of apparel exports would change the global position of the Bangladesh apparel industry. However, still, Bangladesh is ahead of Vietnam in apparel exports to the global market.
According to the General Department of Vietnam Customs, Vietnam earned $32.64 billion from January to December in 2019 whereas, according to the Export Promotion Bureau of Bangladesh, Bangladesh earned $33.07 billion during the period.But if the exports do not turn away from the downward trend, Bangladesh would lose its second position to Vietnam in the global apparel market soon.In the calendar year 2019, the Bangladesh apparel sector sees only a 0.44 percent export growth whereas Vietnam sees 7.30 percent growth.

Vietnam is going to attain Bangladesh’s position as the world’s second-largest apparel supplier by concentrating on product diversification. Even after four decades, Bangladesh’s garment sector is still trapped in basic items. Still, almost 75 percent of the shipments consist of T-shirts, trousers, sweaters, formal shirts and jackets. There has been slow graduation towards value-added and high-end garment items for upscale customers in the Western world.
Bangladesh is still lagging behind in the production of technical and smart clothing items, due to which it could not tap into the global market for hospital clothing, school uniforms and armed forces, worth billions of dollars.
The good news is that many manufacturers are coming forward to produce value-added diversified apparel products. On the other hand, the Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA) has identified 51 readymade garment products for export.
BGMEA mentioned that there is a huge demand for these items in the global market, though Bangladesh produces them a little bit.
The global market size of the 31 products is about $132 billion and Bangladesh earned $7.16 billion by exporting the items in 2019. The global market size of the rest 20 items is $54 billion and Bangladesh earned only $1.2 billion by exporting the items in 2019, according to the BGMEA.
According to BGMEA, the manufacturers will focus on 31 products for five years and on the rest 20 products for 10 years to increase the export of these 51 products significantly. The 31 identified items are made of cotton and the rest are non-cotton items.
Also, the garment industry has to increase its efficiency, if it wants to be more competitive globally. The sector can obtain efficiency through efficient management practices, technology selection and product and market diversification.
How is Vietnam’s RMG sector growing so fast?
Production of high-end apparels is traditionally embedded in the economy and culture of Vietnam.
Bangladesh depends on five items such as men’s and women’s t-shirt, trouser, shirt, jacket and sweater for export while Vietnam has diversified its product line. Only in a single market - the US - Vietnam exports 10 types of products – women’s knit shirts and blouses (MMF), women’s trousers (cotton), women’s knit shirts and blouses (cotton), women’s trousers (MMF), men’s knit shirts (cotton), dresses (MMF), men’s trousers (MMF), men’s knit shirts (MMF), men’s trousers (cotton), and women’s coats (MMF). The apparel sector played a significant role in making Vietnam a rising star by generating employment, earning foreign

currencies and thus contributing to the economy.
Introduction of Doi Moi policy and export trend : Vietnam launched a policy named Doi Moi (economic rejuvenation) in 1986 to reform its economy through entering the free market trade. The policy spurred rapid economic growth in the country.
The country has free trade agreements with the European Union, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, Hong Kong, Singapore, South Korea and China.
The major markets for Vietnamese apparels are the United States, Europe, Japan and South Korea. The US has been the biggest export market for Vietnamese apparels and the country benefitted the most from the US-China trade war. The squeezing market in China has opened a space for Vietnam.
Short lead time and infrastructure : Vietnam ranked 39th on the World Bank’s Logistic Performance Index 2018 while Bangladesh’s position is far behind – 100th. Vietnam’s lead time is shorter because of its better infrastructure of 1,900 miles of coastline and 320 ports. According to the World Economic Forum, Vietnam ranked 80th among 139 countries in the quality of port infrastructure, with an average score of 3.80 on a scale of 1 to 7 between 2006 and 2018. Beside better infrastructure, Vietnam takes shorter lead time for skilled manpower, the capacity of production and geographical location – China, Hong Kong and Singapore are its neighbouring countries. Bangladesh, on the other hand, takes longer lead time for poor shipment.
Restricted competitiveness in domestic market : Vietnam has enacted a new competition law in July this year that limits unfair competition among the Vietnamese and foreign companies in the domestic market. Bangladesh also has a competition act but it has no effective implementation.
Investing in producing raw materials : One challenge Vietnam is facing is the high import cost of machinery and raw materials. The Vietnamese government has already started investing heavily in the development of the support industries. It has developed cotton industry and also expanded the knitting sector.
The production of input materials lowered the cost and opened its door to the competitive market. Also, Vietnam takes shorter time to import raw materials from China than other sourcing countries.
Development of own brand : The government has given the apparel manufacturers opportunities to enhance their capacities, develop their original own brands and become original design manufacturers than working on the subcontract basis.
Devaluation of Dong : Vietnam, being an export-oriented country, has depreciated its currency against the US dollar.
With better market access, zero tariff on certain markets, shorter lead time, and competitive exchange rate, Vietnam has been enjoying an advantage.
Bangladesh, on the other hand, has no plan to devalue its currency as the country’s economy mostly depends on import rather than export. This is another reason for Bangladesh to lose its competitiveness in the global market as it offers higher prices than other competitors.
Expansion of domestic market by attracting Foreign Direct Investment
Targetting the young population, the domestic demand for apparel products in Vietnam is also growing. With increased urbanisation, growing employment and income, the Vietnamese people spend the second-highest amount on clothing after food. Their domestic market is also attracting investments from the major international brands.
The country with skilled labourers and sophisticated techniques is attracting Chinese and Korean investors.
The decline in orders for the Chinese apparel manufacturers and the increase in demand for the Vietnamese RMG products will encourage the Chinese clothmakers to shift investments to Vietnam in order to take advantage of the benefits. On the other hand, despite being the strongest source of economic growth of Bangladesh for nearly three decades, the textile and apparel sector faces various challenges. Though the sector has been holding the second position in the world ranking for long, Vietnam’s continued and robust growth poses a risk to Bangladesh.
Among other reasons, poor shipment facilities, higher production costs due to compliance, pegging of taka against US dollar, increased wage structure, false promise by buyers of giving fair prices, less diversified products, lack of diversified market and more importantly, unskilled workforce and the lack of mid-level management are the main roadblocks to the growth of this sector.
In Bangladesh, 84 percent of total export came from the RMG sector in the last fiscal year. If Bangladesh wants to get back on its track by competing with Vietnam, it is high time Bangladesh started producing high-end diversified products, looked for diversified market, trained up workers to maximise efficiency, and started catering to small orders to get hold of the e-commerce platforms.