Leather industry should aim at global market - Footwear Advisory Council Chief | Sunday Observer

Leather industry should aim at global market - Footwear Advisory Council Chief

Sri Lanka’s leather industry needs to reach the export market and compete with global players as the country has a skilled labour force to make quality products, Footwear Advisory Council Chairman Rangith Hettiarachchy said.

“We save foreign exchange by manufacturing footwear and leather products and seek the government’s intervention to prevent the import of low quality leather products. We need to protect local industrialists as our cost of production is high,” he said.

“The Sri Lankan rupee should be maintained at a stable level so that the benefits of manufacturing of leather products could be enjoyed. The balance of payment and foreign reserves are affected due to the depreciation of the rupee. As manufacturers, we have a duty to ensure that we step up the industry to export standards and earn foreign exchange,” Hettiarachchy said.

“Sri Lanka has a limited market. It is necessary to expand our footprint and reach out to the outside world. The production of footwear is a labour intensive process and attracting labour is an issue. When a country becomes a middle income country, these types of jobs are not attractive resulting in a labour shortage,” he said.

“The footwear industry in China is developing fast and it attracts labour from Bangladesh and Vietnam.

There is an opportunity for Sri Lanka too. As we have a skilled workforce, we must try to grab the opportunity to be a foreign exchange earning industry. This is the direction that we should be moving towards,” he said.

“The world market for footwear and leather products worth US$ 25 billion is growing at three percent per annum. The growth is mainly from India and China. However, the industry is losing ground in China due to lack of labour.”

Hettiarachchy said industry related connections should be established with EU countries, South Africa and America as the GSP + facility will be phased outonce the country reaches US$ 4,000 per capita income level.

“Policymakers should help the industrialists. The 11th edition of the footwear and leather products exhibition at the BMICH from January 25 to 27 will be an eye opener for the country, especially, the Exports Development Board, Industrial Development Board and the Ministry of industry and Commerce.

The exhibition is organised as a private and public partnership, and consumers should help our local manufacturers who produce quality products,” he said.

The Footwear Manufacturers’ Association showcases its industry capabilities and achievements at the three-day exhibition.

Over 300 industry participants will showcase developments and trends in the industry at the exhibition. Indian manufacturers will also participate.