(Adds comment, growth)
DHAKA, Feb 11 (Reuters) - Bangladesh's exports rose 18.81
percent in January, gaining for a seventh straight month from a
year earlier thanks to improved garment sales, the Export
Promotion Bureau said on Monday.
From March through June, Bangladesh's monthly exports fell
year on year as the global slowdown weighed on demand. But
overseas sales have since picked up, with a 8.83 percent rise in
the July-January period, bureau data showed.
Exports in the first seven months of Bangladesh's July-June
financial year totalled $15.15 billion compared with $13.92
billion over the same period of last year.
In January, exports of ready-made garments rose almost 23
percent to $2.09 billion from $1.70 billion in the same month of
2012. For the seven months ended in January, garment exports
totalled $12.04 billion, 9.9 percent more than a year earlier.
In recent years, Bangladesh's economy and exports have been
boosted by a dramatic shift in global garment orders from China
to lower-cost Bangladesh.
The government set an export target of $28 billion for the
current fiscal year, up from last year's total earnings of $24.3
"We are hopeful of achieving the target if the current trend
of growth continues," bureau head Shubhashish Bose said.
Garment orders had been rising from new markets such as
Japan, Russia and South Africa, he added.
Garments account for 80 percent of Bangladesh's exports. The
industry employs 3.6 million people and more than four times
that number are dependent on the sector for their livelihoods.
The garments trade has been in the spotlight since a factory
fire that killed at least 112 people in November. Working
conditions in the factories are notoriously poor, with little
enforcement of safety laws. Overcrowding and locked fire doors
are not uncommon.
The central bank cut its key policy rates this month for the
first time since 2009, by half a percentage point, as it shifted
its focus to encouraging growth.
The central bank cut its growth forecast for the current
fiscal year to 6.4 percent, down from 7.2 percent targeted
(Reporting by Ruma Paul; Editing by Nick Macfie)