Textile and Apparel Industry in Sri Lanka has seen fast and sustainable growth over the past few years and is a dynamic contributor to its socio-economic development. The industry has become the highest industrial employment generator and the highest foreign exchange earner. The total export income of the sector for the year 2011 was nearly US$ 4.2 Billion. The export growth in 2011 was 24% year on year. The industry provided direct employment opportunities to nearly 2,83,000 people in 2011 which includes a substantial number of women in Sri Lanka.
Apparel manufacturers in Sri Lanka comprise nearly 90% of the textile/apparel sector. Today, the garment industry occupies a paramount position in Sri Lanka, producing high quality garments combined with an industry which is flexible and uniquely capable in servicing leading international brands such as Victoria's Secret, Gap, Liz Claiborne, Next, Jones New York, Nike, Tommy Hilfiger, Pink, Triumph, Ann Taylor, Speedo, Abercrombie & Fitch, Land's End, Marks & Spencer etc. Country's Board of Investment (BOI) has also approved ventures account for almost 90% of Sri Lanka's total garment export. Sri Lanka's largest apparel manufacturer, MAS Holdings is also planning to invest US$ 70 million to set up the largest, automated knitting plant in the region at Thulhiriya, within the MAS Fabric Park.
USA and UK are the top export markets for Sri Lankan apparel throughout the decades. In 2011, earnings from textile and garment exports to the EU increased by 25.1%. The total number of garment factories in Sri Lanka is estimated to be around 450. Even though the Sri Lanka's apparel industry is small in size compared to African and Bangladesh markets, experts believe that the hassle free Colombo port will play a major role in developing the industry.
According to Joint Apparel Association Forum's (JAAF) Secretary General MP Tuli Cooray, adoption of the new multi-country consolidation business approach is expected to help the Sri Lankan apparel industry to increase its revenues by US$ 1 billion by 2016 He also added that huge investments coupled with the Government's ongoing efforts to cut transactional costs, and promotional activities in traditional and newly emerging markets have kept fuelling the industry's growth over the past few years.
The apparel industry has been positioned as a socially responsible and preferred destination for apparel sourcing. Sri Lanka is also the only outsourced apparel manufacturing country in Asia which has approved all 27 International Labor Organization (ILO) conventions. It stands out as a reliable source that pays fair wages to its workers while discouraging sweatshops and child labor in its businesses.
Considering that over 90% of Sri Lankan apparel exports are consigned to just two regions in the world; the US and EU, the industry is trying to make forays in to other markets like China, Brazil, India, Russia and Japan. In order to diversify and make a mark in these overseas markets, the clothing sector is seeking free trade agreements (FTAs) with these countries, which will help the sector boost exports. The Sri Lankan clothing industry is expected to witness astonishing future ahead with industry experts believe that the sector would touch US$ 5 billion mark by 2016 from nearly US$ 4.2 billion in 2011.
(Source: Insight Alpha)