Sri Lanka Customs is upping its observation of apparel exports via the country's Colombo port, according to a report by Lanka Business Online.

Sri Lanka Customs have so far detained 45,000 pieces of clothing masquerading as being of Sri Lankan origin that were actually from China, the report said.

L M Nelson, Head of Sri Lanka Customs Central Intelligence, was quoted as saying the goods were headed for Europe. Nelson believes the illicit shipment was carried out in collaboration with a local party.

Sri Lankan clothes can access the EU market on a duty-free basis under the EU's GSP (Generalized System of Preferences) scheme. The EU introduced the scheme to Sri Lanka to help its recovery after it was hit by the Asian tsunamis of December 2004.

Customs are now keeping a close eye on shipments that pass through the Colombo port and are working closely with the Commerce department and the Board of Investment to this end.