The calamity caused production and exports to fall off for a few weeks, as logistics, power and other infrastructure were disrupted and many of the workers from the affected coastal region left the workplace to return home. But major stoppages were avoided, and the key port of Chittagong escaped major damage.
"Export performance of apparel factories during November-December helped much to recover the shortfall of the previous quarter of July-September," said Anwar-Ul-Alam Chowdhury Parvez, president of the Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers & Exporters Assoc.
A similar quick recovery from the impact of Cyclone Sidr helped knit apparel factories to expand their exports.
"Sales and shipments in November-December increased by about 15 to 20 percent," said Fazlul Hoque, president of the Bangladesh Knitwear Manufacturers & Exporters Assoc.
The exporters said they are meeting growing demand and maintaining shipment schedules for their customers in the U.S., European Union and Canada, the main destinations for their products. They forecast exports will reach $9.3 billion to $10 billion in the 2007-2008 fiscal year ending June 30.
In 2006-2007, Bangladesh's apparel exports were $9.21 billion, split fairly evenly between woven garments and knitwear, according to the government-run Export Promotion Bureau. Apparel fabrics, home textiles, terry towels and jute textiles netted $720 million.
The world's fifth-largest clothing supplier, Bangladesh is aiming to overtake Turkey and India and move into third place behind China and the EU, and the quick recovery from Cyclone Sidr has helped to boost its credibility, said industry executives.
"To keep commitments, we left no stone unturned," said A.B.M. Shamsuddin, managing director of Dhaka-based Fancy Fashion Sweaters Ltd. and a vice president of the garment manufacturers association.
"The buyers in their dealings with us will enjoy more flexibility, as some 16 percent of the workers who left for home in the cyclone-affected areas are expected to resume work shortly," he said.
Last week, the industry organizations claimed Bangladesh will be able to stay competitive even after the EU's removal of import restrictions on Chinese garments on Jan. 1, and with the U.S. set to do the same next year.