DHAKA  - Bangladesh's exports rose 11.9 percent in January, driven by readymade garments, and business leaders expect the pace of growth to pick up from April due to clothing orders from western buyers. Exports rose to $2.14 billion in January, 1.3 percent short of the government's target, the Export Promotion Bureau said on Sunday, as a frail global economy sapped demand. Business leaders said Bangladesh shouldn't be too concerned about its main garment exports, which is one of the key drivers of the country's more than $100 billion economy, along with remittances from Bangladeshis working overseas.

"Our growth was still satisfactory while global economy plunged into recession which cut demand sharply," said Anwar-ul Alam Chowdhury, former president of Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association. And orders for basic garments would continue to shift to Bangladesh from China, where costs are rising, he said. "Export growth will pick up from the next quarter starting in April as more orders are coming from key western buyers," he said. 

Exports for July-January, the first seven months of the 2011-12 financial year, were up 14 percent to nearly $13.92 billion, but $645 million below the target. Earnings from readymade garments in July-January rose 15.8 percent from the same period the previous year to $10.95 billion.

For the current financial year, Bangladesh is targeting exports of $26.5 billion, a rise of 15 percent from 2010-11, much slower than the previous year's blistering growth. Exports surged 41.5 percent in the 2010-11 fiscal year to a record $23 billion, boosted by clothing sales after a dramatic shift in China's orders to the lower-cost South Asian country.

Bangladesh's low labour costs have helped it join the global supply chain for clothing.  Bangladesh's current account balance turned positive in December thanks to an improving trade balance and strong remittances.