Sri Lankan apparel must target opportunities arising from post-COVID rebalancing of global trade

Small and medium scale apparel producers have called on the authorities to assist the sector in expanding Sri Lanka’s apparel production capacity, to capitalise on the opportunities stemming from the on-going post-COVID rebalancing of global trade.

These views were expressed at the recently held 26th Annual General Meeting (AGM) of the Sri Lanka Chamber of Garment Exporters (SLCGE), which represents the country’s small and medium scale apparel producers.

Rainbow Clothing Managing Director, Bandula Fernando, was re-elected the President of the chamber for 2022/23 during the event, held at Hilton Colombo Residencies. Minister of Trade – Dr. Bandula Gunawardena was the chief guest while Minister of Industries – Wimal Weerawansa, State Minister of Batik, Handloom and Local Apparel Products – Dayasiri Jayasekara, Joint Apparel Association Forum (JAAF) Chairman – A. Sukumaran and Commercial Bank Chief Operating Officer – Sanath Manatunge were also present.

“The global market for apparel has changed significantly as a result of the ongoing pandemic,” SLCGE President, Bandula Fernando said, speaking at the event. “We have to adapt our strategies accordingly, particularly in response to the e-commerce boom. We have initiated programmes to address these changes, in partnership with other stakeholders including state authorities and donors.”

It was also pointed out at the AGM that while the US-China trade war is creating more opportunities for Sri Lankan apparel producers, manufacturers require state assistance to capitalise on these.

“We are working in partnership with the authorities with regard to the allocation of land for the expansion of the factories of our members, which is vital to increase their production,” SLCGE General Secretary, Hemantha Perera said. “However, the ad-hoc introduction and amendment of various labour regulations, without discussions with employers, are a cause for concern and deter business confidence.”

The introduction of a mandatory retirement age and amendments to the Termination of the Employment of Workmen Act were pointed out as examples in this regard.

Small and medium scale apparel producers also drew attention to unfair criticism of the apparel sector by certain parties with regard to the spread of COVID-19 within manufacturing facilities, noting that employers had put in place all mandated preventative measures. The chamber also extended its gratitude to the armed forces, Government and other public-sector organisations, as well as the apex body of the country’s apparel industry, JAAF, for their invaluable assistance in various forms, following the outbreak of the pandemic.

The SLCGE’s new office bearers who were elected for the 2022/23 year were; President – Bandula Fernando, General Secretary – Hemantha Perera, Treasurer – Rantha Tissera, Vice President – Nishantha Bakmeege, Assistant General Secretary – Rumesh Perera and Assistant Treasurer – Menuka Gunawardena.

The Sri Lanka Chamber of Garment Exporters was formed in 1992 with the vision of developing a vibrant SME sector involved in the manufacture of apparel, which contributes significantly to the country’s economy. The chamber represents small and medium apparel factories as a member organization of JAAF.

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