Green Asia

Sri Lankan apparel exports shrink by $900 million – trade group

COLOMBO : Sri Lanka’s apparel export earnings slumped by $900 million in the first nine months this year, an industry association said on Friday, as slowing global demand undermines a mainstay of the struggling South Asian country’s economy.

Apparel is Sri Lanka’s largest industrial export and earned $5.95 billion in 2022, helping it weather its worst financial crisis since independence in 1948, triggered by a record reduction in foreign exchange reserves.

But this year, the industry has struggled with garment exports up to September dropping 39 per cent to $3.4 billion year-on-year, latest data from the Joint Apparel Association Forum (JAAF), the industry’s top body, showed.

The largest decline as demand globally slows has been in exports to the U.S., which have dropped by 31 per cent to $1.4 billion. Exports to the European Union, which is Sri Lanka’s second largest market, have decreased by 27 per cent to $1 billion and to Britain by 23 per cent to $480 million.

The JAAF said in May it expected Sri Lanka would lose a total of about $1 billion in apparel export earnings this year but the losses up to September indicate the total for the year might surpass that projection.

But Sri Lanka is still hoping to earn about $4.5 billion from garment exports by year-end, said Yohan Lawrence, Secretary General of JAAF.

“Losses have bottomed out. It will not get worse. We are past the worst of it and we may see some upswing at the end of the year but nothing much to write home about,” Lawrence told Reuters.

“We will hopefully start seeing some signs of recovery at the beginning of next year as excess stock gets used up.”

Despite the temporary closures of a handful of factories the industry is soldiering on, Lawrence said and significant job losses were not expected.

The island’s apparel sector employs about 300,000 people, most of them women.

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