In spite of external and local challenges, the resilience in the export sector is gathering momentum as evidenced by year-on-year (YoY) growth for the past 14 months and March recording the highest-ever figure of $ 1.07 billion.
Analysts note that for the first time in many years exports have enjoyed positive growth year on year since February 2013.
“Although January 2013 recorded export earnings of $ 727 million, an 18.2% dip compared to 2012 figure of $ 888 million, from February last year till March 2014 the export earnings have seen a positive trajectory,” analysts told the Daily FT.
It was also observed that the past six-month period was the first-ever time export earnings have surpassed the $ 1 billion benchmark thrice.
With October 2013 being the first month since September 2011 that export earnings crossed the mark by recording a figure of $ 1.41 billion, similar earnings were also achieved in November 2013 ($ 1.031 billion), and March 2014 ($1.67 billion), which was the highest-ever monthly figure for Sri Lanka.
Analysts also noted that this year was the first time where $ 1 billion plus earnings were recorded within the first quarter itself. In previous years (2011 and 2012) this value was reached only in the third and fourth quarters.
Record export earnings in March boosted 2014 first quarter performance by 19.1% to $ 2.8 billion, which is too is an all-time high for the period.
With the Central Bank forecasting year-end export earnings of $ 12.05 billion, $ 14.1 billion and $ 16.92 billion for 2014, 2015 and 2016, the President in his 2014 Budget speech said the Government hopes to achieve $ 20 billion exports by 2020.
The resilient export performance comes amidst challenges from traditional markets in the West as well as growing competition from other Asian suppliers.
In March the largest contribution to overall export growth came from industrial exports, which grew by 25.7%, year-on-year, to $ 779 million. Almost all sub-categories of industrial exports grew in March, except gems, diamonds and jewellery and petroleum products.
As the leading driver of growth in industrial exports – earnings from exports of textiles and garments – grew by 32.6% year-on-year to $ 457 million in March, it reflected significant increases in exports to both traditional and non-traditional markets.
Earnings from agricultural exports grew by 22.4% year-on-year in March to $ 257 million, mainly due to the healthy performance in export of tea and coconut products.