Bangladesh’s footwear sector has secured a strong position in the international market thanks to product quality and price competitiveness. The country’s footwear exports to Canada, Italy, Poland, the Netherlands, Spain, Germany, the US are on a rising trend with a growing demand.In the first quarter of 2017-18 (July-September) fiscal year, footwear exports fetched $234 million, posting an eight percent growth over the same period last year, Export Promotion Bureau (EPB) data show.During the first three months of the current fiscal year, Bangladesh earned $32.4 million from footwear exports to the Netherlands alone, registering a 35.57 percent year-on-year growth.The footwear sector earned $25 million from Spain with a 47.06 percent growth, $13.67 million from Poland with a 51.88 percent growth, and $9 million from Canada with a 15.39 percent growth in the first quarter of the current fiscal year.Footwear makers exported products worth $25 million to Germany, $11.28 million to Italy, $23.89 million to Japan, $26.89 million to the US, $3.21 million to India, and $3.53 million to China during the period.Exporters said international buyers are expanding their sourcing markets to maintain their profit margins without increasing the retail prices, which in turn has opened up opportunities for Bangladeshi footwear makers.The quality of Bangladeshi footwear items, lower production cost due to the comparatively cheap labour, and duty facilities for EU market are helping footwear makers to boost their exports, they said.India-based trade intelligence firm Transparency Market Research said given the rising global demand for footwear which is expected to reach $211 billion by end of 2018, Bangladesh has the potential to explore the growing market by offering quality products.Bangladeshi companies like Apex Footwear, Bay Footwear, Jennys Shoes, Bengal Shoe industries, Leatherex Footwear, and 30 other manufacturers are exporting footwear items across the world. Apex makes 15 percent of Bangladesh’s total footwear exports.“Bangladeshi leather and footwear products have enough potential to compete in the international market and we are already doing so.But this is just the beginning, we still have a long way to go and there are challenges as well” said Nasir Khan, managing director of Jennys Shoes.He also said the government has pledged a set of initiatives, including policy support to help the footwear sector make the most out of its potentials in the international market.He also said Jennys Shoes has been maintaining a stable export growth and they have plans for further expansion.The country’s footwear industry experienced a meteoric rise in the past decade. Total footwear exports grew from $68 million in 2004 to $777 million in 2016-17 fiscal. This year’s target for footwear export has been fixed at $870 million. The government is targeting footwear and leather exports of more than $2 billion by 2018 and $5 billion by 2021.Mohiuddin Ahmed Mahin, president of Bangladesh Finished Leather, Leather Goods and Footwear Exporters Association, said the demand for Bangladeshi footwear products is increasing gradually, which will help boost the exports further.He also said the $5 billion export target can be met if the government continues to provide support to this sector.