Apparel export revenue to hit US$ 5 bn in 2018
Armed with the GSP Plus concession, the Sri Lankan apparel sector will be able for the first time pass the US$ 5 billion export revenue target this year, said Minister of Industry and Commerce Rishad Bathiudeen, addressing the launch of 8th AISEX and FASE apparel industry sourcing expo at BMICH, Colombo Yesterday.
He said 2018 will be a breakthrough year in its history of exports compared to the US$ 4.8 billion in 2017 and so far in first quarter 2018 total apparel exports had surged by 4% to US$ 1.26 billion compared to last year’s first quarter exports of US$ 1.21 billion.”
The Minister however pointed out that though the revenue is close to US$ 5 billion, Sri Lanka invests nearly US$ 4 billion to import apparel and sourcing raw materials and steps should be taken to minimize this.
He said the best way to come out of this is to source raw material from the region and also look at new technology. “Looking at manufacturing raw material too is a good option,” he said.
The Minister also cautioned that though Europe is a key market it is undergoing changes due to increasing unemployment and policy uncertainties after Brexit. “Sri Lanka should look at new markets. It will be difficult for us to move to the next levels without resolving these issues.”
Secretary General of Joint Apparel Association Forum Tuli Cooray said that the GSP concession is for a limited time and the industry should be more productive and introduce new skills and technologies. “Our industry should also be exposed to the new global trends, to move forward facing emerging challenges to advance to the next level.”
Sri Lanka is at a critical stage as the country is moving for a very ambitious reform agenda.
Last year Sri Lanka earned $2 billion from apparel exports to EU, which was 42% of total apparel exports. In the first quarter this year, Lankan apparel exports to EU increased by 5.2% to US$ 526 million in comparison to US$ 500 million in first quarter of 2017. Chairman of Sri Lanka Apparel Institute Prof. Lakdas Fernando said that digitization is the key for exports and those who don’t move in that direction would perish.
“The winds of change are rippling across global industries and it is very much evident in apparel sector too-in CAT tech, digital printing and digital designs,” Prof Lakdas said.