Sri Lanka’s textile and garment exports exceeded US$5bn in 2017, new figures show, with earnings for December alone up 19% thanks to the resumption of duty-free shipments to the European Union (EU).

Textile and garment exports were up 19.4% to $470m in December 2017 from a year earlier, according to the Central Bank’s External Sector Performance Review. The restoration of the Generalised Scheme of Preferences Plus (GSP+) duty-free trade facility in May 2017 helped boost earnings.

The country had lost the trade benefit in 2010 because of human rights violations during the previous government of ex-President Mahinda Rajapaksa. Last year the European Commission proposed that the EU restore Sri Lanka’s GSP+ status, a move that eliminates duties on 66% of tariff lines imported from the country, including textiles and clothing.

Garment exports to the EU increased by 27.2% year-on-year, while shipments to the US and other non-traditional markets increased by 18% and 14.1% during the month of December.

For the full year, textile and garment exports were up 3% to $5.03bn from $4.88bn a year ago. Within that, garment earnings amounted to $4.74bn and textile earnings $205.4m – an increase of 3% and 2.6%, respectively.

On a cumulative basis, export earnings recorded the historically highest value of $11.4bn in 2017 mainly due to notable increases in tea, textiles and garments, and petroleum products exports.

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