The apparel exports from Sri Lanka continued their downward trend, with October exports declining 20 percent year-on-year (YoY) to US $ 330.95 million, the data compiled by industry body Joint Apparel Association Forum (JAAF) showed.
Since September 2022, apparel export earnings have been on a downward trend on a YoY basis, primarily due to the economic slowdown in major Western markets.
According to the JAAF data, exports to all major markets fell during October, amid the slowdown in orders. Exports to Sri Lanka’s biggest apparel market, the United States, fell 16.81 percent YoY to US $ 128.22 million while exports to the EU, excluding the UK, declined 24.79 percent YoY to US $ 110 million.
Exports to the UK experienced a YoY decline of 14.56 percent, amounting to US $ 43.66 million, whereas exports to other markets saw a more significant decrease of 21.69 percent, totalling US $ 49.07 million. The cumulative exports for the January-October 2023 period fell 20.5 percent YoY to US $ 3,748.72 million.
Apparel is Sri Lanka’s largest industrial export and earned US $ 5.95 billion in 2022. The country’s apparel sector has about 300,000 employees, most of whom are women.
The JAAF anticipates a decrease of approximately one billion dollars in this year’s apparel and textile export earnings compared to last year.
Amid the rising inflation and interest rates, consumer demand in Sri Lanka’s key apparel export markets has faltered. In addition, Sri Lanka has become expensive for apparel sourcing, due to the higher production cost, stemming from the sharp rise in electricity tariffs and other input costs.
Sri Lanka’s apparel industry has called for government support to expand the country’s apparel export markets, through bilateral and other types of trade agreements.
Particularly, the apparel manufacturers have called to fast-track the efforts to improve the market access to India,
specifically by increasing the duty-free quota on garments. Negotiations in this regard are currently underway, under the India-Sri Lanka Free Trade Agreement. .