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July 11, 2022

WEEK IN REVIEW: Sri Lanka apparel export dreams continue to shatter

Following the country’s declaration of bankruptcy last week, Sri Lanka’s president Gotabaya Rajapaksa, reportedly announced his resignation today, not long after Prime Minister Wickremesinghe announced he was stepping down, adding yet another blow to the country’s reputation while the apparel sector looks to assure buyers of its stability.

By Hannah Abdulla

The country has dominated global headlines in recent weeks, currently battling its worst economic crisis in 70 years. Sri Lanka’s apparel industry trade body JAAF warned export earnings in the clothing sector for the June-August period can be expected to fall by 20-25% and it is likely to miss the $6bn export target for the year.

It is a far cry from where the country was at the turn of 2022. In March, Sri Lanka was eyeing global garment exports of US$8bn by 2025. It came after the country’s apparel export earnings for January 2022 rose to US$487.6m, the highest in five years.

The apparel sector has hugely benefitted from rigorously applied safety measures following Covid, as well as digital product development technology adoption that helped mitigate supply chain disruptions.

But with the current state of affairs, the industry’s 2030 vision to transform Sri Lanka into a global apparel hub by that year looks bleak.

With apparel accounting for on average 40% of Sri Lanka’s total export revenue, there is an urgent need to maintain buyers’ confidence in the industry. The global apparel sector is also well placed to help Sri Lanka resurface from this incredibly challenging period and experts are urging brands to commit to their Sri Lankan suppliers. Though with challenges including a fuel shortage which could potentially impact shipment delivery time, there certainly will need to be an element of patience exercised.

Some brands have already expressed their support of their Sri Lankan partners. The president of Italian fashion group Calzedonia, said he had faith in the resilience of Sri Lanka’s apparel industry and planned to increase sourcing from the South Asian island nation.

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