Ceramics: Opportunity for niche product manufacturers | Sunday Observer

Ceramics: Opportunity for niche product manufacturers

24 November, 2019

Sri Lanka has a rare raw material required for the manufacture of ceramic products, which is also in great demand in the global market. This should be exploited by the industry with niche products, enabling it to fetch high prices, Noritake Lanka Porcelain (Pvt) Ltd, Chairman/Managing Director Hidenori Tanaka told the 16th Annual General Meeting of the Sri Lanka Ceramics and Glass Council in Colombo last week. He said Sri Lankan ceramic products are in demand in Japan and Europe which Sri Lanka should make use of by manufacturing new products focusing on innovation.

“Noritake has improved the manufacturing process by using new technology and focusing on innovation to drive business,” Tanaka said, adding that the company will continue to help the industry get over challenges. The ceramics industry in Sri Lanka takes pride in a history that dates back to several centuries where historical ruins bear testimony to the rich diversity of ancient craftsmanship and skills of craftsman. The distinguished designs and exquisite elegance of the products manufactured for upmarket segments shows the influence of the rich heritage and traditional craftsmanship influence.

The island is endowed with raw materials used in the industry such as kaolin, ball clay, feldspar, silica quartz and dolomite. The excellent quality of the material contribute immensely to the high standard of products manufactured for the local and global market.

“There is enormous potential for Sri Lanka to export high quality ceramics products to the global market but it needs to overcome some of the challenges facing the industry,” Tanaka said. However, according to experts the industry is facing many challenges that make manufacturing and exports unsustainable due to the staggering amounts spent each month on the import of raw material such as kaolin.

“The industry imports around 100 tons of kaolin each month which is a huge cost to manufactures who are already saddled with the high cost of production,” SLCGC President Anura Warnakulasooriya said.

Sri Lanka imports kaolin from Japan, China, Vietnam, Thailand and UK.

The industry is the present predicament today due to the none extraction of kaolin from the Meetiyagoda deposit which provided quality kaolin for the manufacture of ceramic products and the long approval time to mine for raw material.

However, the ceramics industry is a vital cog in the economy of the country since it is one of the few industries that use local raw material and adds value locally and exports to the global market.

According to data value addition of the industry is over 300 percent on locally sourced raw material.

Domestic value addition has been a key factor in exporting products using duty advantages offered under trading arrangements. Sri Lanka has established global reputation for ceramic products due to the quality and finish from the use of raw materials with pigments and miscellaneous chemicals for preparation of glazes, decal, liquid gold and silver obtained from international sources.

Sri Lankan products blend with advanced technology and indigenous craftsmanship has made its way to top department stores such as Macy’s, Crate & Barrel, Marks and Spencer, Hallmark and Pottery Barn in USA, El Corte Ingles in Spain, Debenhams, Susie Watson Designs, John Lewis and House of Frazerin UK, Sanrio and Isetan in Japan.

Sri Lanka also manufactures for reputed licensors such as Walt Disney, Universal Studios, Lucas Arts and Warner Brothers. USA, Japan, UAE, Canada, Netherlands and Maldives are some of the major markets of Sri Lankan table and kitchenware.

The highly skilled labour force, competitive labour cost and good factory level management, state of the art technology, research and development facilities and ethical standards are some of the industry strengths.