In this photograph taken on 29 August 2020, Bangladeshi labourers work in a garment factory in Gazipur
In this photograph taken on 29 August 2020, Bangladeshi labourers work in a garment factory in GazipurAFP

Bangladesh’s crucial textile industry saw a sharp rebound from the coronavirus crisis in August, with exports surging nearly 50 per cent as factories swung into full gear to meet orders from global retailers, officials said Tuesday.

Shipments of ready-made clothes hit $3.3 billion, up from $2.3 billion a year earlier, the Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA) said.

The garment industry is the cornerstone of the economy in Bangladesh, the world’s second largest exporter of the goods after China.

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The reinstatement of cancelled orders from retail titans including H&M, Primark and Walmart has revived the industry even though Bangladesh is still suffering from the pandemic, BGMEA spokesman Khan Monirul Alam Shuvo told AFP.

I think the worst is over. Some retailers have placed new orders and revived some old orders. We need new workers to make the shipment deadline
Hannan Group chairman ABM Shamsuddin

Some companies say they are now looking for thousands of workers to cope with new orders.

The association said in April that western retailers, who normally buy around $30 billion worth of garments each year, cancelled $3.2 billion-worth after the virus forced stores to shut down.

Shipments collapsed 83 per cent in April and more than 50 per cent in May.

“Some 80 per cent of those orders have since been reinstated,” Shuvo said. “Still, we have to wait another five months to see a clear picture.”

Because of the pandemic, Bangladesh closed factories for one month from 26 March. The 4,500 garment factories employ more than four million workers -- about two-thirds of them women -- and hundreds of thousands were laid off.

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Hannan Group, which exports high-end fashion to brands such as Esprit and Casamoda in Europe, said it has recruited nearly 1,600 workers in the past two months.

“I think the worst is over. Some retailers have placed new orders and revived some old orders. We need new workers to make the shipment deadline,” Hannan Group chairman ABM Shamsuddin, whose companies employ 12,000 people, told AFP.