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Bangladesh garment industry fears backlash after deadly Dhaka attack, Fast Retailing suspends visits


Leaders of Bangladesh’s $26bn garment industry fear Western fashion retailers could review their ties with the world’s second-largest clothing exporter after Islamist militants killed 20 people including 18 foreigners, half of them Italians working in the textiles sector, in an attack on a Dhaka restaurant.

Among the Italian victims in Friday’s deadly attack were clothing consultant Cristian Rossi, Nadia Benedetti, managing director at Studio Tex based in London and colleague Marco Tondat; textile quality control manager Adele Puglisi; textiles worker Simona Monti; Fedo Trading managing director Claudia Maria D’Antona; textile industry workers Vincenzo D’Allestro and Maria Rivoli, and clothing company owner Claudio Cappelli.

Japan’s Fast Retailing Co, owner of the giant Uniqlo casualwear brand, said Monday it will suspend all but critical travel to Bangladesh and has told staff there to stay home after the attack.

Uniqlo has 10 Japanese staff in Bangladesh, one of its major production hubs outside China, and was among the first to confirm that it will tighten travel restrictions, already in place after attacks on foreigners last year.

“An incident like this will definitely impact us, in as much as our importers from places such as [the] US and China will be wary to visit because of the security concerns,” Reuters reported Shahidul Haque Mukul, managing director of Ananta Garments, as saying.

“Bangladesh has never seen such a horrific incident,” said Mohammad Siddiqur Rahman, president of the Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association. “It is a strong slap to our image. It will put pressure on our business, but we cannot say to what extent at the moment.”

Bangladesh relies on garments for around 80% of its exports and for about 4m jobs, and ranks behind only China as a supplier of clothes to developed markets including Europe and the US.\

The industry had been recovering strongly from a major tragedy three years ago, when a factory building collapsed, killing more than 1,100 people, prompting safety checks that led to many factory closures and the loss of exports and jobs.

Between October and January, its exports surged 14% from a year earlier.

“Concerns on visiting our factories, holding meetings, etc, by foreign nationals will be there for a few months but I believe within six months, the intensity will thaw and things will be back to normal,” said Abdullah Hil Rakib, head of exporter Brothers Fashion.

At least two European retailers that source clothes from Bangladesh, Sweden’s H&M Hennes & Mauritz and Britain’s Marks & Spencer Group, say their operations in the country are not immediately affected.

Both said their workers are unaffected, adding that they were monitoring the situation.

“There are no plans in changing any sourcing but we are following the development closely,” Ulrica Bogh Lind, spokeswoman for H&M, told Reuters.

She said the company had “safety routines” for workers, adding the company was in contact with its office in Dhaka.


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