Sri Lanka's apparel exports reached US$ 4.26 billion during calendar year 2013, up 13% year on year, helped considerably by the rebound which was seen in the US and European markets.
This double-digit growth can be attributed primarily to a 20.2% increase in knit apparel exports, while woven apparel exports gained 5.1% during the same period.
Sri Lanka's apparel industry accounts for 60 percent and 40 percent in industrial exports and total exports respectively in Sri Lanka.
Despite the various challenges, Sri Lanka is also ambitious of targeting US $ five billion revenue from the apparel sector during the period 2010-2016. According to the Sri Lanka Export Development Board's (EDB) five year strategic plan, Sri Lanka is to develop textile manufacturing and processing sector to reach a target of 30 million metres (10 million kg) and to bring in new areas of technical textiles to increase apparel exports.
Through these initiatives, the Government and EDB plan to facilitate the textile industry to play a significant role in supplying raw materials to the apparel industry and to cater to the local demand.
Conference and Exhibition Management Services Global Operations Group Director, S. S. Sarwar recently mentioned that several Chinese textiles and apparel companies were looking at opportunities to set up offshore manufacturing zones in Sri Lanka under the proposed Sri Lanka - China Free Trade Agreement.
With the ever increasing competition in the world market, the industries of Sri Lanka can expand their share in the market abroad and at the same time could attract more foreign investment for highly potential industries, specially the garment and textile industry. Many garment factories in Bangladesh are managed by Sri Lankan middle and senior management staff giving employment to thousands of unemployed in that country,Sarwar said.
The total number of garment factories in Sri Lanka is estimated to be around 450. Even though Sri Lanka's apparel industry is small in size compared to African and Bangladesh markets, Sri Lanka's close proximity to major trade routes and the hassle free Colombo port have immensely helped to take the industry to the next level.
Sri Lankan garment factories are following environmental friendly employment practices and are operated in good working conditions compared to other counterparts in the region. Sri Lanka is the world's largest exporter in women lingerie. Sarwar also added, "Despite the fact that the industry is also blessed with high calibre resource people, the industry needs latest technology and other resources to stay up-to-date with the quality of competitors existing worldwide.
Sri Lanka has the potential to expand their share in markets overseas while attracting more foreign investment in the highly potential garments and textile industry with the ever-increasing competition in the world market. The textile and apparel sector will immensely benefit through Sri Lanka-China Free Trade agreement to be signed in the near future."