Business Times

Crisis-hit Bangladesh apparel buyers turn to Sri Lanka

By Bandula Sirimanna

Sri Lanka’s apparel exports are growing at a considerable rate with local factories are getting more overseas orders as many low end garment orders placed in factories in Bangladesh have been badly affected by a social crisis there coupled with violent riots which has disrupted production.

This has resulted in a sharp increase in production costs in a country where exporters took advantage of very low prices in the past years. Although the Bangladesh apparel workers’ issue has now been settled, overseas buyers were placing more orders with Sri Lankan factories as they had earned a reputation for quality and timely delivery, Sri Lanka Garment Buying Offices Association Chairman Gopal Iyer told the Business Times. With the internal crisis in major apparel producing countries such as Egypt which has duty free access to the USA and worker issues in Bangladesh which enjoys the EU GSP + facility, Sri Lanka has become the most sought out and safest country for sourcing apparel at present, he said.

Bangladesh has been having such a strong garments industry that its export earnings in November 2010 alone was $2 billion, other industry sources said. At least three top Sri Lankan companies – Brandix, MAS Holdings and Hirdaramani (the longest with 20 years there) - have production facilities in the South Asian nation.

Joint Apparel Association Forum (JAAF) President A. Sukumaran said apparel and textile exports rose 3.7 % to $3.04 billion dollars in the January - November 2010 period from the previous year. Earnings from garment exports to Sri Lanka's major markets, the EU and USA, rose by 39 % and 28.7 % in November 2010, he said.

He noted that "the situation in Egypt, Bangladesh and China has helped Sri Lanka to attract new buyers. These buyers are focusing attention on our country which was very secure even throughout the war. The local apparel exporters deliver goods on time and there is no delay in shipments. This was one of the reasons for the sustenance of the apparel industry,” he said.

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