Bangladesh could explore Japanese apparel market

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Head of global accessory maker says Bangladesh could explore Japanese apparel market

Refayet Ullah Mirdha

Bangladesh should shift focus to heavy-duty or high-end garment items from basic products, to be more globally competitive in apparels, said a leading Japanese garment accessory maker.

“If the country does not shift focus to high-end garment items, other countries may take the lead on competition for price comparison,” says Hiroaki Nakamura, the outgoing president and chief executive of YKK Bangladesh Ltd.

Bangladesh is a lucrative place for the accessory business for the growing garments sector, he says.

Like YKK, many local factories have invested in the accessories business in Bangladesh. As a result, nearly 80 percent of the garment accessories in demand are available in the country at present, he says.

“Still, Bangladesh imports some rare and sophisticated accessories from other countries to meet demand,” Nakamura told The Daily Star recently in an interview.

YKK began production in its plant at the Dhaka Export Processing Zone (DEPZ) in 2002 and the company was registered in 2000 with Board of Investment (BoI).

Nakamura says YKK is going to expand operations in Bangladesh as demand of garment accessories is increasing with high growth in garment exports.

He says the company has already invested $40 million on the new plant inside DEPZ to produce zippers, buttons and hooks.

Construction of the new plant began in January this year, while production there will start in November, he says. A total of 1,000 workers are employed at YKK in Bangladesh, he adds.

“The company’s turnover stood at $57 million in 2010, which was only $5 million in 2002.”

“So, you can see the growth of business in Bangladesh. It is very high,” Nakamura says.

YKK is the largest single garment accessory maker worldwide. The group has operations in 71 countries,” he adds.

The company’s total turnover in Bangladesh will reach $70 million in 2011, if production starts in November of this year, he says.

On Japanese investment in Bangladesh and apparel exports to Japan, he says the arrival of Japanese investors in Bangladesh has increased over the last few years for the Japan government’s adaptation of the China plus one investment policy in 2008.

Currently, Japanese investors are shifting their investment focus in countries like Bangladesh, Cambodia, Vietnam and other nearby countries to adopt the policy.

“We are not confined to China now,” he says. Nakamura says local manufacturers could study the Japanese garments market over the last three years, because exports from Bangladesh to Japan are soaring. The local exporters could feel the pulse of the Japanese customers, he says.

Japanese customers are quality conscious, and as a result, many manufacturers do not want to tie up with the Japanese buyers, he adds.

The Japanese government was scheduled to relax the rules of origin (RoO) for knitwear products for the least developed countries (LDCs) from April 1, but it might not take place for the devastating tsunami and earthquake this month, he adds.

If the government relaxes the RoO, the export of knitwear products from Bangladesh will increase significantly as the country is a member of the LDCs.


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