Apparel sector braves through crisis with increased cooperation among manufacturers

July 25, 2022

Sri Lanka’s ongoing economic and political turmoil has taken the country back in terms of development. However, sectors such as apparel continue to brave the storm building a sense of togetherness.

As the apparel sector targets to achieve US$ 6 billion in export earnings by the end of 2022, the industry is witnessing increased cooperation and collaboration between stakeholders.

“The industry is witnessing a level of cooperation between manufacturers that we’ve never seen,” Joint Apparel Association Forum (JAAF) Secretary General Yohan Lawrance told New York based media entity Sourcing Journal on Friday (22).

He shared that there is a ‘genuine’ country-first approach. “That is something. Although it’s not been a walk in the park,” added Lawrence.

Sri Lanka’s garment sector has been holding its ground through months of turmoil, even as manufacturers had to answer pressing questions from jittery investors and buyers. While matters only seem to be getting worse for the economy that was expected to come out from the implications stemming from the Covid-19 pandemic, the pressing issue at hand is the challenges faced in processing orders amidst the ongoing shortages in utilities and raw materials.

According to Star Garments Group Director of Operations Jeevith Senaratne, buyers have expressed concerns on the unrest and upheaval in the country impacting economic activity. However, the local apparel sector has been successful in moving forward.

“Every time there is a protest, questions are asked. We have maintained that amid every big protest we are still operating on the same scale because protestors are not trying to sabotage industry, they are making a statement to the government,” said Senaratne as quoted by Source Journal.

Every factory operated at 100 percent capacity on July 9 when hundreds of thousands of protestors took to the streets, he pointed out.

Policy changes were brought about which have helped ease the burden, including allowing manufacturers to buy fuel directly from suppliers using their own money, manage worker transport and obtain diesel for generators.

However, concerns remain and the biggest is regarding the external shocks that are beginning to impact demand.