Country’s exports to major destinations including the USA, Canada and some other EU countries marked a downward trend in the last fiscal year. Exporters and officials attributed the factors like currency fluctuation and sluggish demand and ongoing safety issues in the ready-made garment sector to such poor performance as RMG contributes more than 80 per cent of the total export earnings. The country fetched $ 5.84 billion from the US market by exporting merchandise products including garment which recorded a 6.01 per cent negative growth in the FY 2016-17, according to official data. The downward trend has also been seen in the Canadian market that witnessed a 3.03 per cent negative growth with earnings worth $ 1.07 billion in the last fiscal. About 60 per cent of the country’s total exports is destined for the European Union (EU) while Germany, the United Kingdom, Spain, France, Italy, the Netherlands, Belgium, Poland and Denmark are the big markets in the region, according to industry insiders. Of them, export earnings fell in the UK and Belgium by 6.31 per cent and 9.50 per cent respectively while export growth slows in Spain, France, Italy and Denmark where earnings rise by 1.28 per cent, 2.18 per cent, 5.58 per cent and 5.24 per cent respectively last year compared to the corresponding period of the FY 2015-16. Exports grew by more than 23 per cent in the Netherlands that stood at $ 1.04 billion in the FY 2016-17. Ready-made garments are the major items shipped to those countries, officials said, adding that home textiles, leather and leather goods and frozen fish are among the products destined for the EU and other countries. Terming export and import demand-driven, Bijoy Bhattacharjee, Vice Chairman of Export Promotion Bureau, said they are scrutinizing the reasons for such a decline in major markets. He was speaking at a press briefing on official export data release held at EPB office in the city on Monday. The exchange rate might be a major reason, he said. “We need to find out whether unit price of exportable items has declined or not and other factors that contributed to negative performance.” Overall export earnings stood at $ 34.83 billion, marking a sluggish growth of 1.69 per cent in the FY 2016-17 compared to that of the FY 2015-16. Earnings from RMG exports during the July-June period of the last fiscal grew by 0.20 per cent to $ 28.14 billion from $ 28.09 billion in the same period of the previous fiscal. Terming the RMG export growth ‘unexpected’, Mahmud Hasan Khan, vice-president of Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA), attributed both the external and internal factors to such sluggish performance. The global consumption for apparels declined by 5.0 per cent while Brexit have a negative impact on local garment exports, he told the FE. “Our currency against US dollar remained unchanged while the currencies in competitor countries devaluated,” he explained and identified it as one of the major reasons for losing competitiveness in the global market. Moreover, due to the ongoing safety activities carried out by the western retailers’ platforms -Accord and Alliance- many factories were shut while a good number of units are in the process of relocation, he said, adding that existing gas crisis and other infrastructure problems are affecting the sector. Terming the 0.20 per cent RMG export earnings growth the lowest in last 15 years, Faruque Hassan, another BGMEA leader, pressed for manufacturing value added high-end garment items for sustainable business. Among other major export items, earnings from home textiles increased by 6.13 per cent to $ 799.14 million in the last fiscal year, the EPB data showed. Leather and leather-product exports increased by 6.29 per cent to $ 1.23 billion in FY 2016-17 compared to $ 1.16 billion in FY 2015-16.