China is the world's second-largest cotton producer. Xinjiang accounts for around 80% to 90% of the country's production
In a yet another blow to China, leading Japanese apparel companies World and Mizuno have decided to ban the usage of Xinjiang cotton over the human rights violations by the Chinese government against the ethnic minority Muslims, primarily the Uyghurs, in the region.
Nikkei Asia, which in early April began surveying 50 big-listed companies in the apparel and sporting goods industries on the issue of sourcing from the western Chinese province, reported that Sports brand Mizuno and apparel companies World and Cox will not be buying Xinjiang cotton.
"Since there are such risks, we should not advertise and sell [Xinjiang cotton products] at this stage," World's president Nobuteru Suzuki told Nikkei while referring to the suspected human rights abuses of Muslim Uyghurs in Xinjiang.
Clothing retailer Shimamura said it is temporarily suspending sourcing from Xinjiang. "We cannot visit the site and check the real situation," President Makoto Suzuki said. Shimamura staff used to visit Xinjiang regularly, but traveling has been difficult because of the Covid-19 pandemic, Suzuki said.
Thirteen major companies, including Fast Retailing, Aoyama Trading, Asics, Descente and Gunze, did not respond to inquiries from Nikkei.
China is the world's second-largest cotton producer. Xinjiang accounts for around 80% to 90% of the country's production. "It is difficult not to use Xinjiang cotton at all, because it is high quality for low cost," said one apparel company representative.
Nikkei reported that U.S. investor organization ICCR has asked 47 companies suspected of benefiting from forced labor in Xinjiang, including Fast Retailing, to disclose details on their suppliers. Swedish apparel giant Hennes & Mauritz has announced it will no longer do business with Chinese companies that have factories in Xinjiang.