The latest figures show how deadly the Covid-19 pandemic could be for Bangladesh's exports.
Earnings from apparel exports in the first two weeks of April nosedived to just $194 million, a steep fall from nearly $1.2 billion for the same period last year, according to Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA).
Shipments have declined between 59 percent and 97 percent on a daily basis so far, indicating that this month's average exports may fall around 80 percent.
Meanwhile, the Export Promotion Bureau (EPB) on Thursday disclosed that export earnings of March fell over 18 percent year-on-year.
Total export receipts for the first nine months of the current fiscal year are $28.97 billion, which is 6.24 percent down from the corresponding period a year ago.
BGMEA says it has faced held-up export orders or cancellations worth over $3 billion due to the effect of the coronavirus pandemic.
"The impact is apocalyptic," said BGMEA President Rubana Huq, adding, "In no way can we predict what will happen next month. So, we need to brace ourselves and observe the behavior of brands now."
She said a few brands are pushing them for immediate shipments or else they will cancel orders. "Meanwhile, some brands are telling us that they want to place orders. So, we have to carefully weigh all our options."
Mohiuddin Rubel, a director of Denim Expert, said they have seen a large number of shipment suspensions, as well as order suspensions and cancellations.
Now every manufacturer has a bulk inventory of ready goods due to the cancellation of procurement orders, he added.
"It has multiple effects on manufacturers – payments of raw materials and workers' wages as well as gas, electricity and other utility bills," said Rubel, also a director of the BGMEA.
Prof Mustafizur Rahman, distinguished fellow of the Centre for Policy Dialogue, said several international organisations have already projected that global trade will not be more than one-third compared to the corresponding year.
"In April, production and export remain almost closed, it is not only for Bangladesh that this impact is apocalyptic," he stated.
"This situation will affect the country's economy badly," said Mustafizur, adding, "The government should keep manufacturers and workers alive on the recovery phase."
Ahsan H Mansur, executive director of Policy Research Institute, Bangladesh, said, "We assumed that the apparel sector will face a big collapse and it is happening now. The condition will be severe in April and if the situation prolongs for months, apparel exports could fall by 80 percent in the last quarter of the current fiscal year."
He further said RMG export may face 25 to 30 percent fall in the current year.
"The government may allow manufacturers to keep their factories running to overcome the situation, especially in cases of having orders for East Asian countries – China and India."
It is needed to continue the business relation with buyers from those countries, but at that time, factory owners should maintain standard social distancing to ensure the safety of their workers, he added.
Mansur further said the fall in export would not affect the country's balance of payments due to low imports.
Another point is that the crude oil price has dropped one-third in the international market which will create breathing room for the country's balance of payment, he added.
Among other major sectors, leather and leather goods – the second largest export earner – saw a 10.78 percent fall to $688.51 million in the July-March period.
Earnings from frozen and live fish exports declined by 3 percent to $402 million, compared to $419 million last year.
On the plus side, jute and jute goods, the third largest export earning sector of the country, registered a robust 23.49 percent growth to $775.63 million during the period.
Export earnings from the pharmaceuticals sector rose by 6.5 percent to $106.22 million.