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Coronavirus poses grave risks for Asian garment industry

Order cancellation by Western countries due to the COVID-19 pandemic spells doom for the garment industry in Asian countries. The Textile Council of Hong Kong, recently has warned that the garment sectors in Bangladesh, Cambodia and China faced particularly grave risks of collapse.

Bangladesh, the second-largest clothing exporter in the world behind only China, has already seen garment orders valued at $2.6 billion cancelled or withdrawn, with more likely on the way. Bangladesh has more than 4,600 garment factories, employing at least 4.1 million people, mostly women, who toil to manufacture shirts, T-shirts, jackets, sweaters, and trousers which are shipped to retailers in Europe, the U.S. and Canada. Ready-made garments accounted for 84.2 per cent of Bangladesh’s total exports (valued at $40.5 billion) for the 2018-2019 fiscal year. Europe received nearly 60 per cent of Bangladesh's garment exports in 2018-19. Meanwhile, Bangladeshi factories are losing an estimated $100 million each day.

Cambodia is also a major garment exporter, has been faced with cancelled orders. More than 10,000 garment workers have already lost their jobs as factories closed. Up to 200,000 people could potentially be laid off. Cambodia's garment industry has about 1 million full-time workers. The EU accounted for about 45% of Cambodia's total garment exports in 2018. Now, not only are Cambodian factories dealing with vanishing orders from the west, but its Chinese textile suppliers have largely shut down operations.

Lesser known to the outside world, Myanmar (formerly Burma) also serves as an increasingly important garment exporter to the west. But, as with Cambodia and Bangladesh, order cancellations by the EU have led to the closure of many Myanmar garment factories.


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