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January 31, 2022

Sri Lanka apparel industry shares concerns over forex crisis

The Joint Apparel Association Forum of Sri Lanka has shared its concerns over the current forex (foreign exchange) crisis that has led to inflation reaching record levels, and it is asking for dialogue and stakeholder collaboration, as well as legislative reform for a more sustainable trajectory for its apparel industry.

By Laura Husband

The Joint Apparel Association Forum of Sri Lanka (JAAF), which represents five associations in Sri Lanka, explained at a recent Annual General Meeting (AGM) that it is essential for all stakeholders to engage with authorities on the forex crisis and adopt regulations that will ensure the sustainable growth of Sri Lanka’s apparel industry.

JAAF’s newly appointed chairman and deputy chairman of apparel technology company MAS Holdings, Sharad Amalean, recognised the resilience of the apparel sector during the pandemic and outlined measures to achieve its target of US$8bn in exports by 2025, while maintaining Generalised Scheme of Preferences Plus (GSP+) and enhancing bilateral trade.

He said: “In order to successfully navigate these uncertain times, it is essential that all stakeholders act with unity, and continue to engage in dialogue with authorities on issues pertaining to foreign exchange and the adoption of regulations that can ensure sustainable growth for our vital industry.”

Amalean believes it is essential for the Sri Lanka apparel industry to enhance its bilateral trade by engaging with regional partners and associations.

He pointed out: “The securing of a GSP+ extension beyond 2023 will be absolutely critical for the growth of our industry.”

The outgoing JAAF Chairman, A. Sukumaran said it is likely the apparel industry will continue to face disruptions to its supply chain over the coming year, making the need for continuous engagement across industry stakeholders essential for developing long-term solutions to the industry’s current and future challenges.

He said: “The pandemic exposed underlying vulnerabilities in our extended global supply chains. However, we do not believe the right answer is to simply turn our backs to internationalisation and build overlapping national supply chains – as had been advocated by certain quarters. Even with the current issues we face, the theory of comparative advantage within globalisation is still a more financially viable approach. However, we also need to identify select areas in which development of domestic capacity can support Sri Lankan firms to effectively compete on a global stage, and ensure that such capacity development is expedited as much as possible.”

Sukumaran explained that investing in less transactional and more collaborative supply chain relations would provide major solutions.

He said: “This forges more resilient supply chains that are also more capable of dealing with our industry’s numerous challenges. We have thrived with our buyers on long-lasting relationships. We must do the same thing with supply chains as well. Balance strategies are a must for us to sustain ourselves on the sourcing map.”

JAAF’s AGM, which is for its five associations that cover supply chain partners, the export-oriented apparel manufacturers, buying offices and representatives of international brands, also saw the appointment of JAAF’s new executive committee for 2022/2023, which includes:

  • Chairman: Sharad Amalean
  • Deputy chairmen: Saiffudeen Jafferjee and Felix Fernando
  • Past chairmen: Noel Priyathilake, Azeem Ismail and Ashroff Omar
  • Duly authorised representatives of the constituent bodies: Fabric & Apparel Accessory Manufacturers Association Pubudu de Silva, Free Trade Zone Manufacturers Association – Jatinder Biala, Sri Lanka Apparel Exporters Association – Aroon Hirdaramani, Sri Lanka Chamber of Garment Exporters – Hemantha Perera and Sri Lanka Apparel Sourcing Association – Wilhelm Elias.

Other appointments included individual members of the executive committee:

  • Mahesh Hirdaramani
  • Manik Santiapillai
  • Ajith Wijesekera
  • Jafar Sattar
  • Anis Sattar
  • Rehan Lakhany
  • Mahika Weerakoon

JAAF founding secretary-general Tuli Cooray stepped down from his position and will serve as a consultant moving forward. He will be replaced by Yohan Lawrence, who is a past chairman of the Sri Lanka Apparel Exporters Association.

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