SL SME apparel exporters urge the state support for resilient recovery.
By: Staff Writer
Colombo (LNW):With global economic challenges impacting Sri Lanka’s apparel sector, small and medium enterprises (SMEs) are moving from the drawing board into realization of envisaged plans with numerous options to weather the cascading impacts of declining orders.
Several SME apparel exporters are seeing potential opportunities especially in the Indian market. The majority of Sri Lankan apparel SMEs primarily export to the United States, United Kingdom, EU and India, reflecting the industry’s regional partnerships.
The Sri Lanka Chamber of Garment Exporters (SLCGE) yesterday commended the remarkable resilience of its apparel SME membership for rapidly adapting to tough global market conditions and ending the year with zero closures.
As the apex body for SMEs in the apparel sector, the SLCGE comprises 76 members – all of which operate outside of Sri Lanka’s Free Trade Zones (FTZ).
“Over the past year, our industry has been hit hard with a 20% reduction in orders,” stated SLCGE Chairman Bandula Fernando. “SME apparel producers are among the worst impacted. However, they have also been among the first and fastest to respond to market contractions.
Hence, even as the order book contracted, they have ensured that all existing orders have been completely fulfilled to the highest quality standards.”
“Their success in these trying times is a phenomenal achievement and a testament to their resilience and adaptability. But it is now imperative that our industry, the Government and all stakeholders work together to support a rapid recovery in the SME apparel sector.”
He added that the industry’s priority was to double-down on trade facilitation in order to strengthen market access for these SMEs to at least get to the same level their regional competitors currently enjoy.
“Sri Lanka’s largest apparel firms have already set their sights on high-value niches in new and emerging markets across the globe.
Responding to concerns over a reported 20% reduction in apparel sector jobs over the past 12 months, Fernando explained how the SLCGE’s members had successfully mitigated the worst impacts on jobs and livelihoods by avoiding retrenchment. “Instead, we placed a freeze on new hires,” he explained.
“The majority of the 20% reduction in employment from the apparel sector was contained to natural attrition, which in turn prevented the mass job losses that had been the cause of much speculation over the past year.
Some companies did request employees to stay at home, but these decisions are made in discussion with the individuals involved and responsible authorities, ensuring arrangements are in place to minimize impact on their livelihoods.
To address these challenges, the SLCGE has taken proactive measures, engaging in direct market access initiatives through buyer and consumer engagement. In particular, the Chamber is focused on strategic exploration of untapped markets in East Europe, the Middle East and East Asia.