Apparel sector growth: Digitalisation will play key role, say experts | Sunday Observer

Apparel sector growth: Digitalisation will play key role, say experts

Pic:Chaminda NiroshanaVisitors at AISEX 2018
Pic:Chaminda NiroshanaVisitors at AISEX 2018

The country’s apparel industry is facing many challenges and digital technology is the way forward for improved performance. Digitalisation will play a key role in the growth of the sector and its contribution to the economy has significantly increased over the years, industry experts say.

“Sri Lanka is at a critical juncture of development at present and has in the process of working on a new face of reform agenda. All of these efforts will lead to the eradication of poverty and also to drive export growth. Therefore, it is important to be connected to the global supply chain for market expansion,” Joint Apparel Association Forum Secretary General Tuly Cooray told guests at the eighth edition of the Apparel Industry Suppliers Exhibition (AISEX) 2018 which concluded yesterday in Colombo.

The role played by various economic sectors is vital for country’s holistic development and apparel sector in particular contribute 47 percent of the manufacture exports, he said.

“The EU and the USA GSP concessions will offer a window of opportunity for a certain time period. Therefore, Sri Lanka should be exposed to new global supply chain, new suppliers, new trends and new knowledge. The exhibition is a platform to build upon these requirements,” Cooray said.

The apparel sector needs to focus on the ways and means of gaining maximum benefit of the GSP facility as it is only a breathing space given to the industry. The industrialists while finding ways to maximise the benefits under these concessions should look for stability of the global marketplace, Sri Lanka Apparel Institute Chairman Prof. Lakdas D. Fernando said.

“Advanced technology plays a vital role in the apparel industry where the digitisation process keeps the pressure for improved performance. The industrialists need to convert the factory floor in to digitalisation platform and be competitive globally,” he said.

“After regaining GSP Plus, our apparel exports increased and we are now eagerly looking forward to surpass the $ 5 billion annual exports value this year compared to the $4.8 billon in 2017” Minister of Industry and Commerce Rishad Bathiudeen said.The three day bi-annual event exhibited apparel industry tech and new trends to manufacturers and the next expo in this series is scheduled in 2020.“We expect this year to be a breakthrough year for our world class apparel sector. We can already see this new trend in our 2018 first quarter apparel export performance. In the first quarter of this year our total apparel exports increased by 4 percent to $ 1.26 billion compared to last year’s first quarter exports of $ 1.21 billion.

“This $1.21 billion was actually an 8.2% decline from 2016’s first quarter apparel exports of $1.31 billion. Therefore, we expect this year to be a breakthrough year and I commend our entire apparel sector for their great commitment and excellent performance. However, I wish to say that we should not be blind to the present and upcoming challenges for our apparel sector. It will be difficult for us to move to the next levels without resolving these issues.

“Our annual apparel exports are close to $ 5 billion, but we spend close to $ 4 billion to import the raw materials, and therefore, we need improve on the imports bill on our apparel material sourcing. Europe is a key market but it is undergoing changes due to increasing unemployment and policy uncertainties after Brexit.

“The solution to overcome such possible market pressures is the continuous diversification of our apparel exports to new markets. Adopting sustainable manufacturing, market diversification, sourcing more from nearby locations such as SAARC countries, and switching to emerging technological trends can help us to face these challenges,” he said.Europe is a key market for Lankan apparels. Last year Sri Lanka earned $2 billion from apparel exports to EU, which was 42% of total apparel exports. In the first quarter this year, Lankan apparel exports to EU increased by 5.2% to $526 million in comparison to $ 500 million in first quarter of 2017. Apparel exports to US too increased by 5.1% in this year’s Q1 to $576 million from 2017 Q1’s $548 million.

Pic:Chaminda Niroshana