Amid an increasing global demand for bicycle as an eco-friendly mode of transport, Bangladesh’s export of this two-wheeled vehicle has marked a sharp rise.
Only 10 years back, Bangladesh was a bicycle importing country. But it has now emerged as the third largest bicycle exporter to the United Kingdom (UK) and 28 more countries of the European Union (EU).
Bangladesh was fifth as a top bicycle exporter to Europe only three years back. According to data published by Eurostat, EU’s statistical office, the top bicycle supplying sources are Taiwan (24pc) followed by Cambodia (18pc), Bangladesh (11pc) and the Philippines (10pc).
Eurostat data showed Bangladesh advanced to the fifth position in bike exports to the European market in 2010 from the ninth place in 2009.
The country maintained the position until 2015, when it exported over 6 lakh cycles.
Eurostat further revealed that 28 member countries of the EU imported bicycles worth 108 crore euro in 2017. Among them, Bangladesh exported bicycles worth 6.54 crore euro (Tk 642 crore).
In 2016, Bangladesh’s export volume was Tk 6.51 crore euro, which means the country’s bicycle export to Europe rose by 46pc in a year.
Capital market experts think it is not tough to grab further portion of the market as labour cost in our country is very low.
They said no country can export cycles at prices we usually can offer. We have to exploit this potential keeping in mind the issue of maintaining quality.
Market sources said bicycle exports began in 2000 and picked up speed in 2008.
Exporters expected Bangladesh-made bikes will grab the ‘entire European market’, just as readymade garments (RMG) have done, within next 10 years.
According to the Export Promotion Bureau of Bangladesh, the country fetched $20.31 billion from the July-February exports of RMG alone, accounting for 81 percent of the total export earnings.
The bureau said around 80 percent of bicycle exports was made to the EU countries, and the rest to India, the United Arab Emirates, Australia and other nations.
The bicycle manufacturers said six types of cycles are exported: freestyle, mountain trekking, folding, chopper, road racing, and tandem.
Bangladesh imports some of the cycle spare parts and locally produces the rest — particularly wheels, tubes, pedals, handles, bearings and seats etc.
Meghna Group commenced bicycle exports in 1999 from its factory at Dhaka’s Tajgaon, taken over from the government in 1996. It exports cycles at prices ranging from $100 to $500.
Meghna Group Marketing Manager Moinul Islam Rahat said, “We produce bikes at six factories in Gazipur, employing around 7,000 people.”
Rangpur Metal Industries Limited, a unit of the Pran-RFL Group, has invested Tk 1 billion in a cycle-making factory at Habiganj, sensing robust domestic and increasing overseas markets.
The factory, with an installed capacity to manufacture 5 lakh bicycles a year, began production in 2014.
The company’s marketing head Kamruzzaman Kamal said they would begin exports to Europe in April next year.
Imports still on
Although the country’s cycle exports are increasing yearly, the lion’s share of the domestic market demand is still met through imports.
Exporters blamed the previous import trend for the situation.
Meghna Group Manager Moinul Islam said: “Demand for imported cycles is high as their prices are comparatively low. Besides, selling imported cycles has been a trend among our traders.”
He said their group is manufacturing bikes for domestic market, taking into consideration road conditions and people’s buying capacity.
At Meghna Group’s cycle showrooms, cycles are sold at prices ranging from Tk 13,500 to Tk 280,000.