Bangladesh’s dominance in the global denim market has been marred by a decline in denim exports to the European Union (EU) and the United States (USA) in the first quarter of this year.
Exporters attribute this drop to sluggish demand caused by the economic slowdown resulting from the Russia-Ukraine war-induced high inflation, which has compelled consumers to prioritize basic needs.
Data from the Office of Textiles and Apparel (OTEXA), a US Department of Commerce affiliate, reveals that Bangladesh’s exports of denim garments to the USA experienced negative growth of over 33% in the January-March period of 2023, amounting to $131.44 million compared to $196.25 million in the same quarter last year.
In 2022, Bangladesh earned $943.70 million from denim exports to the USA, surpassing the $798.42 million recorded in 2021.
Since 2020, Bangladesh has been the primary supplier of denim goods to the USA. Mexico, which held the top position in 2019 with exports worth $802 million, only managed $161.24 million in Q1 2023.
The OTEXA data further shows that US imports of denim apparel worldwide decreased by 31.37% in Q1, amounting to $662.44 million, compared to $965.28 million during the corresponding period in 2022.
China, once the leading denim exporter, now holds the fifth position in the US market with $58.60 million, reflecting over 34% negative growth. Pakistan and Vietnam secured third and fourth positions with $74.11 million and $62.85 million, respectively.
Despite the challenging economic situation in major export destinations, global fashion brands continue to place orders in Bangladesh due to the adoption of new technologies by denim fabric manufacturers and exporters, resulting in reduced water consumption.
The Bangladesh Denim Expo, a two-day event organized by the Bangladesh Apparel Exchange, showcases the latest denim products, fabrics, accessories, chemicals, and technologies.
With a focus on adopting technologies like Ozone and laser, Bangladeshi denim manufacturers have significantly reduced water consumption to 9-30 liters per pair of jeans, compared to the previous 360 liters.
Although the denim business is currently facing a slowdown due to the limited expansion of local factories resulting from a scarcity of work orders caused by the global economic crisis, industry professionals remain hopeful that the situation will improve within the next six months.
Despite a 14.37% negative growth, Bangladesh remains the leading supplier of denim exports to the EU since 2017. In 2022, denim exports to the EU generated $1.55 billion for Bangladesh, compared to $1.18 billion in 2021.
Bangladesh Textile Mills Association reports that approximately 40 local mills produce denim fabrics, contributing to the country’s manufacturing sector.