DHAKA, April 8 (Reuters) - Bangladesh’s exports rose 16.2 percent in March to $$2.3 billion from a year earlier, rising for a ninth month, thanks to stronger clothing sales, the Export Promotion Bureau said on Monday, but recent political unrest could drag overseas orders down.
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.
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 of last year.
Garment exports totalled $15.68 billion for the nine months ended in March, 11 percent more than a year earlier.
The country’s economy and exports have benefited from a dramatic shift in global garment orders from China to lower-cost Bangladesh.
Garments account for 80 percent of Bangladesh’s exports. The industry employs around four million people and more than four times that number are dependent on the sector for their livelihoods.
Garment exporters say Bangladesh is unlikely to achieve the target of $28 billion for the current fiscal year, given that global buyers are cautiously placing orders because of political turmoil.
Bangladesh has been rocked by a series of strikes and street violence in recent months on issues ranging from war crimes trials to election rules, which led to the cancellation of some orders and planned visits by buyers.
The garment trade had already been in the spotlight since a factory fire that killed at least 112 people in November.
The International Monetary Fund last week said Bangladesh’s economic growth was expected to slow to less than 6 percent from 6.3 percent last year because of political unrest while the central bank in January cut its growth forecast for the current fiscal year to 6.4 percent, down from 7.2 percent.
The central bank has also cut its key interest rates by half a percentage point in a shift of focus towards encouraging growth. (Reporting by Ruma Paul; Editing by Nick Macfie)