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Best working practices lead to steady growth in apparel exports
Aug '08
Sri Lanka is quietly and firmly closing the lead in exports of apparels and garments over its competitor countries like India, Bangladesh, and Vietnam. Exports of apparels from the island country have depicted a steady and strong growth in the last few years.

In a comparative study for the period 2005-08, shipments of apparels both knits and wovens in the first six months of each year, grew by nearly 20 percent in 2008 when evaluated with the same period of 2005.

Exports which stood at US $1274.3 million in the first half of 2005 rose to $1325.6 million in the same period of 2006, which again augmented to $1515.8 million in 2006. But the same growth though, could not be sustained in the first half of the current year and could touch only $1523.8 million.

Apparels manufactured from woven fabrics have managed to get the highest share of total garment exports from the island except for in 2008, when apparels made from knits managed to close the gap, albeit with a miniscule difference of just $15 million.

Shipments of woven apparels which were $787.8 million in the first six months of 2005, dipped to $742.7 million in the corresponding period of 2006, but were able to reverse the trend in 2006 to close at $782.9 million before once again slipping to $755.5 million in the first half of 2008. In comparison to 2005, exports of woven apparels could manage to grow by only 4 percent in 2008.

In contrast the real growth has come from exports of knit apparels. Exports of knit apparels which stood at just $464.8 million in the first half of 2005, ascended to $565.0 million in the corresponding period of 2006 to post growth of a stupendous 21.55 percent.

In 2007, shipments of knit garments in the same period mounted to $701.0 million to once more register a growth of an awesome 24 percent over 2006. Compared to the high growth rates of 2006 and 2007, shipments grew by a modest 5.56 percent to touch $740.3 million in the corresponding period of 2008.

There is no doubt that, exports of knitted apparels contributed in no small measure to the overall foreign trade in garments. When appraised with figures of 2005, shipments of knit apparels in the first half of 2008 grew by a stunning 59.27 percent in contrast to a marginal growth of just 4 percent posted by woven apparels in the same period.

Sri Lanka's apparel industry is a major contributor to the country's economy. After its modest beginnings in the seventies, the industry today represents 43% of the country's total exports and contributes 39% to the industrial production of Sri Lanka.

The steady growth in shipments of apparels has come about for a variety of reasons. The Sri Lankan apparels exporters were one of the first to understand the implications of adhering to the strict import laws of the European Union and implement the same in a joint collective spirit.

The Sri Lankan Apparel Industry had also launched a campaign to introduce their new industry-appropriate trademark-'Garments without Guilt' in November 2007. The 'Garments without Guilt' initiative focuses on ethical manufacture and sustainable development assuring the industry's commitment to ethical working conditions, free of child labour, free of forced labour, free of discrimination and free of sweatshop practices.

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