Alongside readymade garments, shoes made in Bangladesh are now gradually catching the US market and other markets in different countries around the world
In a span of only four years, the number of shoes exported from Bangladesh to the US has doubled, according the US commerce department’s Office of Textiles and Apparel (OTEXA).
OTEXA data reveals Bangladesh exported shoes worth of $61.4 million in 2014. In 2018, this increased to $133.2 million (around 11.32 billion taka), which is 14.93 per cent or $19.9 million more than 2017.
Exporters said US brands are buying more shoes from Bangladesh as production costs in Vietnam have increased.
Vietnam is the second highest shoe exporter after China in the US, they said.
The OTEXA report, however, suggests though the volume of export from Bangladesh has increased, the amount is still very small in the context of the market of the USA.
The US imported a total of 2.44 billion pairs of shoes in 2018. And 1.69 billion pairs of shoes worth of $13.89 billion were imported from China. Vietnam exported 460 million pairs worth $6.16 billion while Indonesia exported 100 million pairs of shoes worth of $1.54 billion to the US.
Bangladesh exported only 5.1 million pairs of shoes in the US in 2018. In the first two months of 2019, the Bangladeshi companies exported 961,000 pairs of shoes.
The export of shoes is increasing to other countries as well.
In the last fiscal year, Bangladesh exported leather shoes worth of $560 million. The increase was 5.33 per cent. In the first nine months of current fiscal (July 2018 - March 2019), the growth has risen to 7.86 per cent. The monetary value of the export at the time was $458.7 million.
Besides, traders exported non-leather shoes worth of $240 million.
More than 100 Bangladeshi companies including Apex, Bay and Leatherex Footwear, export shoes. Around 60-65 per cent of the total is exported to European Union countries. Around 17-18 per cent is exported to the US while another 6-7 per cent to Japan.
“Timberland is doing well in the US market. Our export has increased since we’re making shoes for them,” said Bay Footwear managing director Ziaur Rahman.
He also said, “The president of the sourcing department of another famous apparel brand VF Corporation of USA came to Dhaka a few weeks ago. He met us along with owners of garment factories and shown interest in buying shoes from Bangladesh.”
According to OTEXA, the brands in the US are increasingly importing shoes made of leather alternatives. Around 40 per cent of the shoes the US imported in 2018 were leather while 60 per cent were of leather alternatives.
Bangladesh, however, lags behind by a large margin in this sector. The country exported only 800,000 pairs of non-leather shoes last year.
“Consumers around the world are buying non-leather shoes more due to the high price of leather shoes. But many of our factories are not able to compete in exporting non-leather shoes,” said M Abu Taher, former president of Bangladesh Finished Leather, Leather Goods and Footwear Exporters Association (BFLLFEA).
He also said, “The leather shoe exporters get 15 per cent cash incentives from the government but there is no such assistance for the non-leather shoe exporters.”
Taher sought help of the government in this sector.
Managing director of Apex Footwear, one of the top shoe exporting companies in Bangladesh, Syed Nasim Manzur, told Prothom Alo, “Several US brands have increased sourcing from Bangladesh. They’re giving more work orders than before and this has increased the volume of exports.”
He said the overall exports have not risen as was expected due to the fall of demand in the EU countries.
Syed Nasim Manzur also said, “Big brands buy leather only from the tanneries that are approved by the Leather Working Group (LWG). Apex’s tannery is the only such tannery in Bangladesh. This is why most of the shoe exporters of the country are dependent on imported leather.”
He also put emphasis on taking immediate initiative to upgrade the quality of tanneries in Hemayetpur, Savar, to secure LWG’s approval.
* This report appearing in Prothom Alo's print edition has been rewritten in English by Shameem Reza