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By Ruma Paul
DHAKA, Dec 7 (Reuters) - Bangladesh’s exports in November rose 6.2 percent from a year earlier to $3.06 billion, driven by stronger garment sales, official data showed on Thursday.
For July-November, the first five months of the 2017-18 financial year, exports rose 6.7 percent to $14.56 billion from a year earlier, the Export Promotion Bureau said.
Shipments of readymade garments, comprising knitwear and woven items, totalled $11.96 billion during the past five months, up 7.5 percent from the same period of 2016.
Garments are the main foreign-exchange earner for the South Asian country, where low wages and duty-free access to Western markets have helped make it the world’s second-largest apparel exporter after China.
The government has set an export target of $37.5 billion for the 2017-18 financial year, with ready-made garments earning $30.16 billion.
Garment exporters said Bangladesh was on track to achieve the target.
“The order flow is satisfactory. We’ll achieve the target if the current trend continues,” Siddiqur Rahman, president of the Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association, told Reuters.
He also said there was no impact on orders or shipments from a July 2016 attack on a cafe in Dhaka’s diplomatic quarter in which 22 people were killed, mostly foreigners.
“Buyers are also happy with the reforms in the sector,” he added.
The garment industry had been recovering strongly from a major tragedy four years ago, when a factory building collapsed, killing more than 1,100 people and prompting safety checks that led to factory closures and the loss of exports and jobs.
Exports in the previous financial year to June rose 1.7 percent from a year earlier to $34.7 billion, but that was the slowest growth in 15 years, with garment sales up just 0.2 percent growth.
Exporters blamed the lacklustre growth for the previous financial year on a number of factors, including sluggish demand in main markets, structural reforms in the garment sector, a weak euro and appreciation of the Bangladeshi currency against the U.S. dollar.
The central bank left key interest rates unchanged in July, saying it was trying to balance economic growth and inflation risks. (Editing by Richard Balmforth)