Sri Lanka's garment industry is targeting higher-end Chinese consumers, with total apparel exports to China growing twenty-fold - from US$0.7m in 2010 to US$15m in 2012.

In China, a new market has emerged for top quality local brands, Sri Lanka's Joint Apparel Association Forum (JAAF) said in a statement, adding: "The high level of GDP [gross domestic product] growth and rising per capita income has widened the middle class there."

Sri Lanka's entry into China has two tracks, a note from one of the country's leading clothing manufacturers, Hirdaramani Group, told just-style.

"The first would be manufacturing directly for high-end Chinese brands, and the second would be via the international brands within our current client portfolio as they look to expand to the Chinese market."

The JAAF added the industry also hopes to make use of a raft of recently signed "MoUs [memoranda of understanding] between China and [Sri] Lanka to access this market."

Sri Lanka aims to achieve US$5bn in total annual global garment exports by 2016 from the current US$3.8bn. Of this, US$1bn is expected to come from garment exports to China, according to the JAAF.

China's clothing imports are growing despite it being the world's top clothing exporter: the country's garment imports shot up to US$4bn in 2012 from US$2.2bn in 2010, the JAAF noted.

Sri Lanka and China are not rivals in this business. "Sri Lanka has carved out a niche market as a mature international player" being an ethical sourcing hub, according to the JAAF. The country has "significantly reduced its supplies to the low-end of the market" over the years, it added.

And being a high-end clothing maker already, [Sri] Lanka wants to exploit the "rapidly growing retail markets in India and China," the Hirdaramani Group note said.