DailyMirror – By SHABIYA ALI AHLAM
Sri Lanka’s apparel sector has no major hopes for export earnings reaching the US$6 billion level this year; however, it is striving to bag a bigger market share in its neighbouring giant, a top official of a leading apparel maker in the country said.
Brandix Group Managing Director Hasitha Premaratne noted that as Sri Lanka has much to do to get its market access right for the long run, the immediate focus should be on India.
“It is important to look at what we can do the next few years. It might not be that big. We need to try and see how to make a billion dollars in the Indian domestic market,” he said.
“That’s a very important market we cannot miss,” he added.
Premaratne shared his views while addressing a post-budget forum organised by CA Sri Lanka.
Reiterating the call made by the stakeholders of the apparel sector in the recent months, Premaratne asserted that speedy efforts must be taken to improve the market access to India, particularly by increasing the duty-free quota on garments. Negotiations in this regard are currently underway, under the India-Sri Lanka Free Trade Agreement (FTA).
At present, Sri Lanka can export eight million pieces of garments to India duty free, and fetches export revenue in the range of US$ 40 – US$ 50 million. According to Premaratne, the industry is hoping for the cap to be removed entirely or extended as much as possible.
“The Indian domestic market can be a good opportunity for us to really reach because as we all know, the market has almost 300 million people in the middle-class segment, who are now getting into a high-spending mode,” he said.
Premaratne opined that the tensions between India and China also present an opportunity for Sri Lanka, as the island nation can help bridge the gap created with lesser Chinese products entering India, particularly in certain segments such as sportswear. “… we have the capability in Sri Lanka to make those world-class products. We can reach the Indian domestic market with competitive rates. Without the FTAs we are doing it but then with the FTA, we can do it better,” said Premaratne.