By:Staff WriterColombo (LNW): Sri Lanka‘s tile and sanitary ware business is heading for “rock bottom”, following the repeated delay in the lifting of import restrictions for almost four years since mid-March 2019, several leading importers and traders said.
This prolonged import ban with the promises of government authorities to suspend restrictions for importers and others connected to the business has triggered the near closure of most of the 300 entities affecting over 100,000 direct and indirect employees, A.M.J.M Jawfer, President of Tile and Sanitary ware Importers Association said.
It supports over 2000 distributors maintaining sales centres in the supply chain and around 30,000 direct employees in the import and sales and marketing who have already been experiencing the impending loss of their livelihood, he told the Business Times.
The present administration has removed the import control on 159 items including industrial machinery, a series of building materials, machine parts, tools, ball bearings, agricultural implements, and toilet paper in a gazette notification issued under Sri Lanka’s import control law effective September 9, 2022.
But the suspension on tile and sanitary ware imports still persists and the buyers of those items are kept in the dark due to non-availability of such items and the high prices of locally manufactured products, several traders alleged.
Representatives of tile and sanitary ware business spearheaded by their association have made submissions and appeals repeatedly but official authorities kept their files under the carpet while three leading manufacturers monopolised the market, Mr. Jawfer disclosed.
According to official data around 45 per cent of the tiles are made in Sri Lanka and the balance 55 per cent imported at a high tax of around 100 per cent which was imposed to protect the local industry.
As a result of import ban to save dollars, a severe shortage hit the local market while middle and low income earners were deprived of purchasing tiles with their limited budget as the major local manufactures do not have tiles for lower price apart from B and C grade which they do have permission to sell with various defects, industry sources alleged.
Local importers were always been able to provide A grade tiles at a competitive price to suit such category of consumer’s budget but now they have very limited choices in terms of designs available in showrooms of local manufacturers, these sources claimed.
Most of the high-end projects are halted as they are not able to purchase high quality tiles and sanitary ware as the local manufactures don’t meet the product standards and has very outdated models for sanitary ware, several construction sector heads told the Business Times.