Bangladesh Jan exports rise 7.8 pct on garment sales

DHAKA Sun Feb 16, 2014 6:13am EST

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DHAKA Feb 16 (Reuters) - Bangladesh's exports rose 7.8 percent in January from a year earlier to $2.75 billion, boosted by clothing sales, the Export Promotion Bureau said on Sunday, despite months of election-related violence that disrupted transport and prompted global retailers to curb orders.

Bangladesh's $22 billion garment industry had seen orders cut nearly in half in the three months to December as political unrest in the months leading up to a Jan. 5 election hit the country, according to the Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers & Exporters Association.

The unrest eased after the polls, which were boycotted by the main opposition party and shunned by international observers as flawed, but the respite could be short-lived amid growing calls for a fresh election.

In the first seven months of the financial year beginning July 1, exports totalled $17.44 billion, up 15 percent from the same period a year ago, the export bureau said. Garments exports soared nearly 18 percent to $14.2 billion for the seven months.

The garment industry, which supplies many Western brands such as Wal-Mart, Tesco and H&M, has already been under the spotlight after a string of fatal factory accidents, including the collapse of a building housing factories in April that killed more than 1,130 people.

Bangladesh raised wages for millions of garment workers starting last December and amended its labour law last July to boost worker rights, including the freedom to form trade unions, following international pressure on the world's second largest clothing exporter.

However, industry leaders said all factory owners had not implemented the minimum wage of $68 per month - up from $38 - while Human Right Watch has said garment factory workers who try to form trade unions are being intimidated and threatened with murder.

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