Contributing significantly and dynamically towards country’s overall economy, Sri Lankan textile industry has grown over the years to see itself as primary foreign exchange earner and largest single employer in the realms of manufacturing sector. After its modest beginning in seventies, the industry today represents 43 percent of the country's total exports and contributes 39 percent towards industrial production of the Island Nation. The apparel and textile industry at 46 percent, is the largest single contributor to the export revenue. Sri Lanka is the ‘only outsourced apparel manufacturing country in Asia’ to signup 39 ILOs (International Labour Organisation) Conventions. Mr Jayathissa Ranaweera, Honourable Minister of Textile Industries - Government of Sri Lanka, has been representing the Parliament for past 13 years. Youngest son of a village headman, Mr Ranaweera, after completing his education, worked in the Plantation and Gemming Industry, and became popular among youngsters offering social services for the overall development of the regional youth group. Few years later, he was duty-bound to engage in political activities representing the youth. Finally in 1993, Mr Ranaweera was nominated to contest the Provincial Council Election by the current ruling political party and got elected as a member of Sabaragamuwa Provincial Council. A year after he was nominated as a contestant for General Parliamentary Election 1994, representing the Kolonna Electorate in Rathnapura District of the Island and with a considerable majority, he was elected to be entrusted the duties as a Deputy Minister developing irrigation, community settlement, allocating lands for agricultural matters. Subsequently, he was also appointed Deputy Minister with the local Government and Land Development organisation. In recognition to honest and efficient accomplishments of duties entrusted, Mr Ranaweera was appointed Minister of Textile Industry Development with effect from November, 23, 2005. Since then, in co-ordination with national and international bodies, he is proactively engaged in the welfare of Sri Lankan Textile sector. He has targeted uplift of rural poor, generating self employment opportunities, thus advancing the aspirations of the vibrant Sri Lankan textile industry, in the international fora. Mr Jayathissa Ranaweera speaks candidly about the factors that helped Sri Lankan textile industry to reach new horizons. Speaking to
Since mid – 1980s, Sri Lanka’s textile industry has dramatically emerged as a strong sector boosting country’s economy via exports. Credit goes ofcourse to your Ministry. Can you explain how this happened?
Since mid 1980’s, it is the apparel industry in Sri Lanka which has grown rapidly emerging as a main foreign exchange earning industry for the country. At present, the apparel exports account for around 44 percent of the industrial exports from the country. Apparel industry grew mainly under the quota system and opening of free trade zones. Many foreign investors arrived in Sri Lanka to take the advantage of quotas, and gradually, the industry developed with local entrepreneurs entering into garment manufacturing. High technical competency of our technicians and easily trainable work force, were two main factors behind our success. The successive governments also have provided several facilities for investors to join this industry. Manufacturers were able to develop very cordial relationships with internationally renowned retailers from the USA and the EU. High standards of quality maintained, was another factor for the success.
What after effects are the textile and apparel sectors of Sri Lanka facing post - MFA (Multi Fibre Agreement) and expiry of quota system?
The GSP + has shown positive results with a 17 percent increase in sales to the EU during 2006. The Government is promoting backward integration to increase value addition and draw maximum benefit from such schemes.
What prospects do you foresee in case of post-GSP + scheme and launch of Free Trade Agreement (FTA) between Pakistan and Sri Lanka?
The results of the FTA with Pakistan are yet to be realised. There has been a considerable increase in the import of fabrics from South Asian region during the last year. Growth of fabric imports from Pakistan increased by about 99 percent during the period 2003 to 2006.
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