Chairman Sri Lanka Apparel Exporters Association
Funding is of course the biggest issue that the SME sector faces, as borrowing costs in Sri Lanka can be quite high.
Yohan Lawrence, Chairman, Sri Lanka Apparel Exporters Association (SLAEA) tells about the Sri Lankan apparel markets as he converses with Fibre2Fashion Correspondent Manushi Gandhi.
SLAEA was established in 1982 and export earnings of the members of the Association account for 70% of the value of total apparel export earnings of the country. It currently has 71 companies as its members. It disseminates information promptly, convenes regular meetings and organizes Seminars/Workshops for its member companies.
Yohan Lawrence is the Chairman of SLAEA since 2012. Prior to this he has been the Treasurer of the SLAEA for a number of years. He has been in the manufacturing sector for over 20 years, the last 15 of which have been in the Apparel sector. He is the Country Manager of Quantum Clothing Lanka (Pvt) Ltd. He is educated from University of London (BSc Econ), and Middlesex University (MBA).
What unique thing Sri Lankan apparel industry has got to offer to the global industry?
Over the past few years the offer that Sri Lanka brings to the global apparel trade has changed quite significantly. Gone are the days of Sri Lanka being a source for simple “cut and make” operations. We now offer a comprehensive package from Product Development and Design, through Ethical Manufacturing and complete warehousing and logistics solutions. There’s a high degree of value addition to the product on offer as a result of extensive investment across the patch across the latest equipment and technology. We would pitch ourselves as the Total Apparel Solutions provider to the global industry.
What percentage of country’s national income comes from export of garments? According to you what more needs to be done to increase this?
Apparel exports account for around 40% of the total exports from Sri Lanka. Whilst we envisage the value of apparel to grow, other export sectors in Sri Lanka are likely to grow as well. Overall exports out of Sri Lanka are on the rise so it’s unlikely that apparel exports as a percentage of overall exports will increase.
Which are the countries majorly importing clothes from Sri Lanka? How do you look at the growth rate of apparel exports over the last 5 years?
Our main market are the USA and the EU. In the quarter to March 2014, Apparel exports were US $1,213m. Out of this value, 42.5% went to the USA, 45.7% to the EU and the balance 11.8% to other countries. Within the EU the majority of our exports go to the UK, Italy and to Germany. Over the last 5 years Sri Lanka’s export of apparel has grown from US$ 3,155m (2009) to US$ 4,314m (2013). That’s a combination of both generic growth of the industry and the higher value of garments being manufactured on the Island.
Developing new markets is a key thrust of the industry, and a number of trade promotion activities happen to help identify and to develop new markets for the industry. A free trade agreement with China is in the pipeline and we are confident that this will open a new market for our membership. There’s also trade missions planned to Brazil and to Japan in order to explore opportunities there.
What are the future prospects of Sri Lankan apparel exports?
Exports in 2014 show a strong upward trend with the first few months being some 20% up on last year. Sri Lanka continues to offer a package to the buyers that’s based on competitive pricing, high ethical and manufacturing standards, and strong delivery performance. The infrastructure provided by the Government of the Country provides a platform that makes it easy to do business in Sri Lanka with streamlining of processes, amendments to legislation, expansion to the port etc.
Sri Lanka is a land of renowned garment makers such as Brandix, Hirdaramani Group, MAS Fabrics. What is the role of small and medium manufacturers? What has been done for their growth and development?
The SME sector has always played a large part in the industry and has been the base on which our industry has developed over the last 30 years. Currently a number of the SME units will have some production that is done for the larger groups, and will do some business as stand-alone FOB supply to buyers. Funding is of course the biggest issue that the SME sector faces, as borrowing costs in Sri Lanka can be quite high. The Joint Apparel Association Forum (JAAF) has identified ailing SME companies and through Government intervention has assisted in obtaining relief / restructuring of these Companies. A number of tax concessions have also been afforded to the SME sector.
The Export Development Board (EDB) conducts a number of trade promotion missions overseas, and any funding that is available is fully directed to the SME sector.
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