The export of leather footwear has risen significantly in the first four months (July–October) of the current financial year (FY2017–18). With earnings of USD 202.20 million, the sector has registered a positive growth rate of 5.68 per cent, according to Export Promotion Bureau (EPB) data.This sector registered a positive growth rate of 19.92 per cent and earned USD 191.33 million during the same period in FY2016-17.This positive trend has emerged thanks to more and more investment in the sector, as Bangladeshi entrepreneurs are investing in compliance factories to produce high-quality footwear.Former president of Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce and Industry (MCCI) Syed Nasim Manzur told The Independent: “If long-term sustainable policy support is implemented, it’s possible to achieve a growth level of 20 per cent from 5.68 per cent.” Nasim Manzur, who is also managing director of Apex Footwear Ltd, said: “If we consider the global market, there are more countries in a stronger position than Bangladesh. The industry should adopt a more sustainable approach to compete with them.”He noted that Vietnam had exported leather products worth USD 11.5 billion compared to Bangladesh’s leather exports worth USD 1.3 billion last year.China’s growth in the footwear industry has come down from double digits to single digit. There is a chance for Bangladesh to strengthen its position in this context, he said.When asked about overcoming the challenges, managing director of Apex Footwear said that Bangladesh needs to address a few things, such as reducing the lead time to 45 days, long-term policy predictability and setting up of more compliance factories, to achieve the target of USD 5 billion export revenue by 2021.Competitive pricing, low labour cost and available raw material are the opportunities for Bangladesh to grab the global market of leather products, he added. Dr Khondaker Golam Moazzem, research director of the Centre for Policy Dialogue (CPD), told The Independent that the growth of the export leather products in the first four months of FY2017–18 is 13.78 per cent. “This shows that after meeting the domestic demand, we’re performing successfully in the global arena,” he said.China is a big concern for most global brands and sourcing diversification is necessary. Given these factors, if investors decide to move to a cost-competitive manufacturing base, Bangladesh would be the most lucrative option, he noted. The government considers “leather goods and footwear” as one of the main growth generators for the country to cross the middle-income threshold. It is now the second largest export-earning industry in the country, which employs about one million people both directly and indirectly. According to the Leathergoods and Footwear Manufacturers and Exporters Association of Bangladesh (LFMEAB), the country currently exports roughly $1.16 billion of leather goods and footwear products annually. According to LFMEAB, approximately, 220 tanneries, 2,500 footwear manufacturing units and 90 large firms have involved to make leather goods and footwear mainly for export. Bangladesh exports leather goods and footwear mainly UAE, Argentina, Austria, Australia, Belgium, Canada, Switzerland, Chile, China, Germany, Denmark, Italy, Spain and Finland.