Sri Lanka’s apparel industry has risen to the challenges posed by the pandemic and the sector can contribute further to the country’s economy, provided that all stakeholders collaborate to address critical constraints, apparel exporters point out.
These views were expressed at the recent 39th Annual General Meeting (AGM) of the Sri Lanka Apparel Exporters Association (SLAEA), the pioneer association representing the country’s apparel exporters.
Apparel exporters highlighted the need for COVID-19 vaccine boosters for staff, addressing domestic macroeconomic constraints – particularly the lack of foreign exchange – and strengthening export market access, for the industry to realize its potential.
At the event, SLAEA’s Executive Committee expressed appreciation of the role played by health and other public authorities in vaccinating the apparel industry’s 350,000 workforce. However, apparel exporters emphasised the need to secure COVID-19 boosters for employees of the sector, given that the six-month window since the vaccinations were rolled out is fast approaching.
In addition, apparel exporters discussed the vital importance of retaining the Generalized System of Preferences (GSP) Plus trade concessions to the European Union as well as the United Kingdom. It was noted that the country needs to strengthen access to other key and emerging export markets.
“The apparel industry’s contribution to the Sri Lankan economy remains unparalleled, a fact duly recognized by the Government,” Chairman of SLAEA’s Executive Committee for 2021/22, Aroon Hirdaramani said. “However, we are now facing significant issues in the context of the country’s foreign reserve shortages and overall economic issues. Together with our apex body – the Joint Apparel Association Forum (JAAF) – we are working with the authorities on solutions that can continue the growth witnessed from 2021 onwards, with minimal disruption.”
The SLAEA Chairman also commended and appreciated the contribution of the Executive Committee and the members of the association. Under the Executive Committee’s leadership, overcoming pandemic-induced disruptions, SLAEA undertook several key initiatives. These include the key role played by the association and its individual members in collaborating with the authorities on worker safety and vaccinations, as well as the rebranding of the SLAEA.
In 2020, as part of its rebranding, the SLAEA rolled out a new logo, website and a video promoting the industry, the culmination of more than a year-long activity performed diligently by the association’s branding committee. SLAEA is seeking to further leverage digital tools to strengthen the positive positioning of Sri Lanka’s apparel industry, to assist in increasing its market share.
The Executive Committee of the SLAEA for 2021/22 comprises; Chairman – Aroon Hirdaramani (Director – Hirdaramani Group), Deputy Chairman – Indika Liyanahewage (CEO – Eskimo Fashions Knitwear), Rehan Lakhany – Immediate Past Chairman (Chairman – Original Apparel) and Hon. Treasurer – Jeevith Senaratne (Senior Manager Business Analysis – Star Garments).
Founded in 1982, the Sri Lanka Apparel Exporters Association is the pioneer association for the apparel exporters industry in Sri Lanka. It has a membership of 72 apparel manufacturers in the country, who account for over 70% of the country’s apparel exports. The members of SLAEA envisions transforming Sri Lanka to the number one apparel sourcing destination globally.