As Bangladesh seeks to diversify its export basket the focus has been on engineering products and bicycles, which have high demand in international market.
The government has taken several development projects aimed at developing the sectors to meet growing global demand, officials related to the sector said. Bangladesh already exports a significant portion of such products in Europe and African markets.
According to the Export Promotion Bureau (EPB), domestic manufacturing companies earned USD $ 16.80 crore from bicycle exports in the FY 2021-22, an increase by 28.31 per cent from the previous fiscal year.
The Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology and the National Investment Board estimate that 40,000 small and medium enterprises are running in this sector, providing direct benefit to about 80 lakh people.
Around 400 registered entrepreneurs have set up light engineering industries and related factories in lands provided by Bangladesh Small and Cottage Industries Corporation (BSCIC). The government has also declared the light industry an important sector.
Bangladeshi entrepreneurs are making world-class bicycles and light engineering products, which have high demand in Europe and Africa. The price of a Bangladeshi bicycle is between Tk 5000 to Tk 2 lakh.
Bangladesh exports bicycles mostly to Germany, Denmark, the UK, the Netherlands, Portugal, Belgium, Italy, and Bulgaria.
The country's bicycles export markets have also diversified to countries like Congo, Gabon, and Ivory Coast in South Africa apart from Europe through Red, Feral, and Inigo brands.
The light engineering industries are producing iron castings, bicycles, electronic products, engineering instruments, conductor cables, and stainless steel products. Meeting the domestic demand, the export income from this sector reached to $51 crore in the last FY22.
This sector received export income of $31.1 crore in FY 2009-10, in the FY 2010-11 $30.1, in the FY 2011-12 $37.5 crore, FY 2012-13 $36.7 crore, in FY 2013-14 earned $44.7 crore from the light engineering sector.
The government wants to develop this sector by implementing the project 'Development of light engineering sector and creation of facilities for e-waste processing. Bangladesh Council of Science and Industrial Research (BCSIR) is implementing the project.
The objective of the project is to deliver the services of the light and medium engineering sector of the country to the doorsteps of people. Light Engineering Development Center at Chittagong and Materials Center at Rajshahi and Savar Leather Research Center will be set up under the project.
Chief Scientific Officer of BCSIR Abdul Gafur told UNB that bicycles have come a long way as an export product. The product is now being exported abroad to meet the needs of the country.
Apart from this, iron castings, electronics products, engineering instruments, conductor wires, and stainless steel products are also exported, he said.
Since this is a labour-intensive sector initiatives are being taken further develop the workers’ skills to make the products competitive.
“Light engineering is now a promising sector. We are trying to improve this sector. More support will be given to those involved in it. That is why the project volume is being expanded,” he said.
President of Bangladesh Engineering Industry Owners Association (BEIOA) Abdur Razzak told UNB that the exports rebounded in the FY2021 from three years of falling shipments.
In FY 2021-22 Bangladesh earned a record $51 crore from exporting light engineering products, he said.
"We are hopeful of getting a boost in export in the coming days as the SMEs and micro-industries are trying hard to modernise their enterprises and produce quality products for global market," he added.