Bangladesh April exports up 10 pct on garment sales

DHAKA Tue May 7, 2013 7:36am EDT

DHAKA May 7 (Reuters) - Bangladesh's exports rose nearly 10 percent in April to $2.08 billion from a year earlier, rising for a 10th month, thanks to stronger clothing sales, the Export Promotion Bureau said on Tuesday.

But industrial accidents, such as the April 24 collapse of a garment factory complex where more than 700 people died, have raised serious questions about worker safety and low wages, and could taint the reputation of the poor South Asian country, which relies on garments for 80 percent of its exports.

Total exports in the first three quarters of Bangladesh's July-June financial year were $19.70 billion, compared with $17.89 billion over the same period the previous year.

Garment exports totalled $17.31 billion for the 10 months that ended in April, 11.5 percent more than a year earlier.

Monthly exports had fallen year-on-year from March through June as the global economic slowdown weighed on demand. But exports have since picked up, with a 10.16 percent rise in the July-March period.

Duty-free access offered by Western countries and low wages have helped turn Bangladesh's garment exports into a $19 billion-a-year industry, with 60 percent of clothes going to Europe.

The European Union, which gives preferential access to Bangladeshi garments, had threatened punitive measures in order to press Dhaka to improve worker safety standards after the collapse of the illegally built factory.

About 4 million people, most of them women, work in Bangladesh's garment industry, making it the world's second-largest apparel exporter after China.

The garments trade had already been in the spotlight since a factory fire that killed at least 112 people in November. (Reporting by Ruma Paul; Editing by Robert Birsel)