June 9, 2013 / 8:40 AM / 6 years ago

Bangladesh garment sales soar despite deadly incidents

The clothing tag on a boy's shirt which is made in Bangladesh is shown after purchase from a Walmart store in Encinitas, California, May 14, 2013. REUTERS/Mike Blake

DHAKA (Reuters) - Bangladesh’s exports rose 15.43 percent in May to $2.54 billion from a year earlier thanks to stronger clothing sales, the Export Promotion Bureau said on Sunday, even as the country reviews safety standards at factories after two deadly incidents.

Garment exports totaled $19.3 billion for the 11 months that ended in May, nearly 12 percent more than a year earlier.

The sharp increase comes as the government weighs industry reform after the collapse in April of the Rana Plaza factory complex killed 1,129 people. A fire at another factory last year killed 112.

The incidents have put the government, industrialists and the global brands that use the factories under pressure to reform an industry that employs four million and generates 80 percent of Bangladesh’s export earnings.

Total exports in the first 11 months of Bangladesh’s July-June financial year were $24.32 billion, compared with $21.97 billion over the same period the previous year.

Monthly exports had fallen year-on-year from March through June as the global economic slowdown weighed on demand. But exports have since picked up, with a 10.67 percent rise in the July-May period.

Duty-free access offered by Western countries and low wages have helped make Bangladesh the world’s second-largest apparel exporter after China, with 60 percent of clothes going to Europe and 23 percent to the United States.

The European Union and the United States had threatened punitive measures in order to press Dhaka to improve worker safety standards after the collapse in April of the illegally built factory.

Reporting by Ruma Paul; Editing by Jeremy Laurence

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