Dhaka muslin has enduring touch
ALTHOUGH Bangladeshi ready-made garments appeared on the world market relatively late, the country is no newcomer to the international textile market.
The famous muslin of Dhaka was as popular in the Mogul Court as it was in the leading trade centres of 18th century Europe.
However, this thriving industry was destroyed by colonial rulers in order to allow Yorkshire textile giants unhindered entry into the world market.
The modern industry began in the mid-1960s with the establishment of four garment industries in what was then East Pakistan. Their target was to serve the limited domestic market.
The industry really took off in the 1980s following the government's liberalisation of industrial and economic policies.
Within a couple of years, the industry was enjoying unrivalled success.
A quick glimpse at the recent growth of the industry highlights the significance of this sector of the Bangladesh economy as well as its potential as an export commodity.
In 1980-81 export earnings from ready-made garments were only US$6.14 million.
Registering a spectacular growth throughout the 1980s, this sector realised US$1,325 million in 1992.
An average growth rate of 50 per cent was recorded each year during the last decade.
If that trend continues, it is expected Bangladesh will earn US$1.5 billion in 1992-93, and US$3.00 billion by 1995.
As well as bringing in precious foreign exchange, this sector employs nearly half a million people, 85 per cent of them women who would otherwise be out of work.
It is likely that, by 1995, this sector will have absorbed an additional one million of the work force.
It has gone from success to success, yet remained virtually immune from any industrial disturbance since its phenomenal expansion during the 1980s.
Bangladesh garment exporters cater to the prosperous markets in the European Economic Community (EEC), with 350 million people, and the United States, with its population of 280 million.
Bangladesh has the largest share in the EEC market for the production of shirts and t-shirts while, in the American market, Bangladesh is in seventh place after China, Hongkong, Taiwan, South Korea, the Dominican Republic and the Philippines.