Difficult for EU to stop sourcing garments from Bangladesh: Trade adviser

A European Union trade adviser in Dhaka says they are heavily dependent on Bangladesh’s readymade products and a shift from this market is “not very easy”.Zillur Hye Razi, who is set to retire soon, made the observation at a business networking programme of the biggest bilateral chamber, Bangladesh-German Chamber of Commerce and Industry (BGCCI), at a Dhaka hotel on Thursday.He gave a “personal reflection” based on his “lifetime” experience of working with the EU.Razi said during the worst fiscal year in Europe in 2008, Bangladesh and Qatar were the only countries that experienced growth.
He said the products Bangladesh was exporting to EU such as shirts, t-shirts, sweaters, and trousers were “very basic” items and the 28-nation bloc sourced 25 percent of them from Bangladesh.“So a shift, as we always apprehend, is not very easy.”“To have one-fourth of their total need from another source would be very difficult,” he said.“In 2008 when everybody had bad days in the EU, the demand was shrinking and buyers were looking for a cheaper, dependable source, and they all came to Bangladesh.”There have been apprehensions that Bangladesh may lose market after the Rana Plaza collapse in 2013.GIZ Programme Coordinator Magnus Schmid, who is leaving Dhaka ending his tenure, however, said he witnessed “a mindset change” among the factory owners after the Rana Plaza collapse and Tazreen Fashions fire that together killed more than 1200 people.He highlighted Germany’s efforts to ensure factory safety and workers rights in Bangladesh.The EU is the largest export destination for Bangladesh. Among the 28 countries, Germany is the biggest market for Bangladesh.Readymade clothes, however, remained the major export item of Bangladesh.EU Trade Adviser Razi said, “Bangladesh has a great prospect in leather, but we have not done much work to change the policy.”Citing the EU records, he said, the total earnings from the shipbuilding were less than one year’s earnings from the footware exports.He also stressed on agriculture exports as he found that the export volume was “not too big”.“The main problem was information gap,” he identified.“For example”, he said, “a particular product was rejected because of colour sudan, red dye stuff, which was put in chilli.“It was rejected because there is a zero tolerance policy in the EU on colour sudan. If they (exporter) were aware of that they would have used natural chilli and it would not have been rejected.”“There is a gap between exporter and the standard they are using,” he said.BGCCI President Shakhawat Abu Khair also spoke at the business networking programme, moderated by its Executive Director Daniel Seidl.