Sri Lanka apparel industry says it helped uplift village economy

Oct 14, 2008 (LBO) – Sri Lanka’s apparel industry is aiming to increase export revenue despite tough market conditions, saying the spread of factories to rural areas has significantly raised living standards in villages. “Without this industry poverty would have been much higher,” said Ashraff Omar, a top exporter and member of the Joint Apparel Association Forum, the apex industry organisation.

Exports of apparel now earn 3.2 billion dollars a year, and contributes 10 percent of gross domestic product, he told a meeting of industry officials.

The industry provides direct employment to more than 270,000 people and indirectly keeps about a million employed.

The industry was now generating more value addition internally and importing fewer imports to make the finished product, Omar said.

“When we started we used to import everything – from polybags to cartons to labels. Now most of it is made locally.”

Garments exporters were aiming to raise export revenue despite global economic turmoil that could affect demand and the possible loss of the GSP Plus European Union trade deal under which exports go duty free to European markets.

“This is one of toughest times we have seen ever,” said Omar. “T