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Sri Lanka needs new policy for textile and clothing

Sri Lanka should create a new policy for textile and clothing aiming to attract more investments, create new jobs and add value to the apparel industry value chain, said Prof. Rohana U. Kuruppu, Chairman, Textile Institute Sri Lanka Section of the Department of Textile and Clothing Technology, University of Moratuwa.

Sri Lanka need textile & clothing policy
Figure: Sri Lanka exported US$ 5 billion of textile and clothing. Courtesy: Collected

“A policy must emerge soon and steps must be taken to implement the policy decision and at the same time, all stakeholders should come together to make the change and carry it forward,” added Prof. Rohana U. Kuruppu.

He said that Sri Lanka had textile manufacturing as an organized industry since the 1940s and clothing industry since the 1970s. “Our textile and clothing exports have just reached US$ 5 billion. We have less than 500 outfits in textiles and clothing.”

The total US textile and clothing imports were US$111 billion in 2018. US imports of textile and clothing increased in value by 4.9% in 2018.

In volume terms, imports rose by 5.9% in 2018. This was an indication that textiles and clothing accounted for a bigger share of total imports to the USA. He said Sri Lanka’s total textile and clothing exports were up by 5.7% in 2018 and out of this export of clothing increased by 4.7% in 2018 over 2017.

The average price of US textile and clothing imports fell in 2018 for the seventh year in succession to a record low of US$ 1.62 per square meter equivalent.

The average import price declined by a total of 14.2% over the seven-year period. The main cause for this was a decline in the average price of imports from China.

The US textile and clothing imports from China were up by 4.8% in value and by 6.7% in volume. While the price per square meter equivalent drops year by year, the value and volume increase.

Prof. Kuruppu said the real challenge is to be competitive and yet increase significantly the share of value and volume in the market. For that, “We need to bring in a new broad perspective and a paradigm shift. Our supply chain practices need a new look. The craftsmanship must be perfect and this should be coupled with branded labels. Professional ethics and relationships must be improved.”

Substantiating on the same, he added, “The need to create a knowledge hub with emerging technologies and innovations such as AI and advancements in material science coupled with digitalization, big data and analytics to create the perfect platform for modern-day business. The ways in which we design, source, manufacture and deliver must be redesigned.”

Talking about the radical state of uncertainty around the globe, he said, “There’s heightened demand for volatility, geopolitical risks, natural disasters, terrorist attacks, social media disruptions which are all taking their toll on global supply chains. The changes are inevitable and will disrupt the textile supply chains.”

The ways in which we design, source, manufacture and deliver must be redesigned, if we are true to stay alive in our textile industry,” he added.

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