“The country has been able to secure large orders for the production of PPEs – worth over $500 million – due to the COVID-19 pandemic. A total of 33 factories are currently manufacturing those products. We expect more orders, which will soon surpass $1 billion mark,” BOI Director General Sanjaya Mohottala said.
Sri Lanka’s total export earnings for 2019 was $11.9 billion, out of which $5.7 billion was generated from apparel exports. Around 300 garment factories employ over 300,000 workers, where over one million people are engaged in garment-related industries to earn livelihoods through indirect employment.
Noting that the COVID-19 pandemic had a major impact on the apparel industry globally, particularly with disrupted supply chains, he acknowledged Sri Lanka also suffered with inadequate raw material as a result of the closure of borders.
Sri Lanka currently produces value-added, top quality, pricy and high-end apparel for world-renowned brands.
Given the pandemic situation, he pointed out that it will be difficult for most people to purchase expensive apparel items with the global economic downturn and will opt for more sustainable re-useable garments. Thereby, he suggested apparel exporters and manufactures reflect on alternative products, methods, and markets, considering the economic crisis.
The Director General also said some of the countries and regions are reconsidering their trade policies as a result of the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Our main apparel markets include the US and Europe. Considering the pandemic, these two economic powerhouses intend to limit their global supply chain to a particular country or region. I think it is a good trend for us in South Asia. Neighbouring India produces raw materials, Bangladesh produces low-end garments, and Sri Lanka produces high-end apparel. All these countries belong to the same region. The SAARC region also have free-trade agreements (FTAs) between most countries. This will be an opportunity for the apparel industry to capitalise on, to thrive through the current crisis,” Mohottala said.
He also noted that the BOI has expedited the work in setting up the proposed fabric park in Eravur to manufacture raw material needed for the apparel industry going forward.
“We have already had discussions with potential investors from several countries and received favourable responses,” Mohottala added.
The fabric park will produce both artificial and natural textile needed for the apparel industry.