Bangladesh pro­vides a ready mar­ket for Pak­istani goods and fur­ther in­vest­ment in trade could yield very pos­i­tive re­sults.

Southasia - - News - By Mo­hi­ud­din Aazim

Bangladesh emerges as a ready mar­ket

hun­gry for Pak­istani goods.

In the fis­cal year end­ing June 2011, Bangladesh emerged as the sev­enth largest ex­port mar­ket for Pak­istani prod­ucts af­ter USA, Afghanistan, UAE, China, Ger­many and UK. Ex­port earn­ings from the erst­while East Pak­istan crossed the $1 bil­lion mark, show­ing a phe­nom­e­nal an­nual in­crease of over a hun­dred per­cent.

Pak­istan must pen­e­trate deeper into Bangladeshi mar­kets to en­sure con­tin­ual growth in ex­port earn­ings from within the SAARC re­gion. Busi­ness­men ar­gue that there is great de­mand for Pak­istani goods in ma­jor cities of Bangladesh due to sim­i­lar­i­ties in pref­er­ences and tastes of con­sumers. Bangladeshis are fond of Pak­istani wheat, rice, veg­eta­bles, fruit, meat and dairy prod­ucts. Pak­istani cotton yarn and tex­tiles in­clud- ing tow­els and bed­sheets are also very pop­u­lar. Tanned leather and medium to high-value added leather prod­ucts and footwear could also con­sti­tute a large per­cent­age of Pak­istani exports to Bangladesh. As for low-value added leather prod­ucts and footwear, China and In­dia are the main sup­pli­ers. Some Pak­istani cotton lawn-mak­ers have also shipped con­sign­ments of pop­u­lar brands of Pak­istani lawn suits for ladies.

In re­cent years, half a dozen Pak­istani tex­tile millers have set up fac­to­ries in Chit­tagong to take ad­van­tage of cheaper la­bor and cheap gas and elec­tric­ity tar­iffs. Old and new tex­tile ma­chin­ery from Pak­istan has been used in these units, thus boost­ing Pak­istan’s ex­port earn­ings from Bangladesh. Pak­istani mo­tor­bikes and cars as well as some brands of ce­ment have also found new ex­port mar­kets in the former East Pak­istan. Pak­istan has been pro­duc­ing good qual­ity paints and var­nishes, ce­ram­ics and glasses, elec­tric ca­bles and a host of other such items, some of which are be­ing ex­ported.

Pak­istani jew­elry, both gold-made and ar­ti­fi­cial, along with In­dian jew­elry is also a fa­vorite im­ported item for Bangladeshi wom­en­folk. Dur­ing a gems and jew­elry ex­hi­bi­tion held in Karachi some months ago, Bangladeshi buy­ers showed keen in­ter­est in modern, newly-de­signed jew­elry and struck multi-mil­lion dol­lars deals with the pro­duc­ers.

Solid eco­nomic growth in Bangladesh in the last few years with an av­er­age GDP growth of over five per-

cent has given birth to con­sumerism and many young Bangladeshi men and women now have a higher level of dis­pos­able in­come. Apart from ex­plain­ing the growth of Pak­istani exports to its brotherly SAARC coun­try, this trend also pre­dicts the pos­si­bil­ity of ex­port­ing modern house­hold items such as TV, VCR and VCD sets, re­frig­er­a­tors, deep freez­ers and wash­ing ma­chines.

Bangladesh be­ing the most con­gested coun­try in the world is short of cul­tivable land and is work­ing with Su­dan and Morocco to en­sure long- term lease agri­cul­tural land for pro­duc­ing food crops. How­ever, this plan will take sev­eral years to yield the de­sired re­sults and till then the coun­try is ex­pected to con­tinue im­port­ing food items. With lit­tle ef­fort, Pak­istan can grab a siz­able share of Bangladesh’s multi- bil­lion dol­lar food imports mar­ket.

The chem­i­cal in­dus­try in Bangladesh leaves much to be de­sired. Com­pa­nies like En­gro, Fauji and Fa­tima Fer­til­izer can tap vast op­por­tu­ni­ties of ex­port­ing in­dus­trial chem­i­cals. Chair­man of Fa­tima Fer­til­izer, Arif Habib, says once his fer­til­izer man­u­fac­tur­ing plant at­tains full ca­pac­ity within a year or two, he also plans to ex­port fer­til­iz­ers to Afghanistan and Bangladesh. Sport goods, cut­lery, car­pets and sur­gi­cal in­stru­ments from Pak­istan are all in high de­mand in Bangladesh. But re­cently, cheaper Chi­nese prod­ucts have emerged as a real chal­lenge. Where phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal prod­ucts are con­cerned it is In­dia, not China that gives Pak­istan tough com­pe­ti­tion.

Fac­ing dire eco­nomic hard­ships, Pak­istan has much po­ten­tial to in­crease its ex­port rev­enue by tap­ping into the Bangladeshi mar­ket. With much to gain and lit­tle to lose, it is eas­ier for Pak­istan to trade within SAARC coun­tries. How­ever, it is crit­i­cally im­por­tant to main­tain stan­dards and trans­parency. Trade ex­perts lament that in the mid-2000s Pak­istani ex­porters had in­dulged in heavy un­der-in­voic­ing of trac­tor exports to Dhaka and on de­tec­tion of this un­scrupu­lous ac­tiv­ity, trac­tor exports had come to a halt. As a re­sult, China and other coun­tries had taken over the lost mar­ket. This is a com­mon oc­cur­rence and Pak­istan can­not af­ford to lose what­ever lit­tle mar­kets it can en­sure. Un­less such prac­tices are dis­cour­aged, sus­tain­able growth in exports can­not be en­sured.

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