Exports - Present and post Covid 19 era and its challenges | Sunday Observer

Exports - Present and post Covid 19 era and its challenges

The National Chamber of Exporters (NCE) is in contact with its members and with the authorities to provide uninterrupted services within the export industry. The Chamber has embarked on three key initiatives to cope with the situation. 

  • Digitising export documentation

Foreseeing the need for efficiency and speed, particularly in times of crisis, the NCE has been championing the digitizing process for Export Documentation attestation for the longest time. The NCE has been offering the Digital Attestation of Certificate of Origin (CO) and other export-related documents, as a service to its members for quite some time.

The digital platform developed by the NCE has, since this situation arose, leveraged its technical capabilities to process wherever possible operations for the Export industry, particularly in terms of relevant documentation, on line.

Where some of these operations have come to a critical point, and in some cases, even to a halt, due to social distancing.

The NCE offers assistance to maintain the smooth operation of export companies via its Digital Platform.The NCE encourages its members and the exporter community to use the Digital Platform for export-related document attestation, where the staff of the NCE Secretariat is at hand to avail members of services needed.

Digitising most of the export documentation means that exporters can ensure the safety of their staff members, save time, money as well as the environment, even in the long-run.

The NCE has published a video and a document containing step-by-step guidelines of registering as a Digital CO customer and how to obtain a CO. we have encouraged our members to use this digitised platform to facilitate their operations, which we feel will be standard procedure into the immediate and near future, with developments being made to improve system efficiency and the span of  export related documentation. 

Import substitution

Ever since the Sri Lankan Rupee began to slide in relation to the US Dollar, a few years ago, the NCE has been strongly advocating the importance of increasing value addition in terms of input for products and processes for the Export Industry, where at present it stands at below 30%, and to enhance import substitution.

The NCE is working on exploring the options for import substitution, which has a dual effect on the country’s economy, where the outflow of foreign exchange will be limited or controlled, as a compensation to the reduced inflow of foreign exchange. This will ensure the continuity of export industries while supporting the government to secure employment levels of the country.

 While we feel that this measure would galvanize the scientific and manufacturing sectors of the Nation, to focus on continued Research and Development on quality locally sourced raw material,which in turn will insulate the export industry’s dependence on the variability and availability of imported inputs. Considering this effort, the NCE forged an MOU with the Institute of Nano Technology (SLINTEC) and plans to forge similar ties with other research institutions of the country with a view to link its members with the research and development community, to arrive at this objective. In the near term, where many international orders would be cancelled or postponed due to the prevailing shutdown of global markets; manufacturers and regulations, including BOI companies, may have to change to adapt themselves to cater to inward looking policies, making available such excess production to the local consumer, even as a temporary measure. This could we feel maintain the manufacturing industries’ cash flows and ensure the continuation of employment and other operational areas in the short term to meet their commitments as well as to sustain these enterprises.  

Business re-engineering

The Chamber sees this situation as a turning point in changing the way we do business. The NCE has encouraged its members to “think out of the box” and explore new areas and methods in carrying out their respective operations.  

The NCE has a strategic partner in Messrs Ernst &Young to conduct webinars regarding exporting enterprises, restructure financing, business recovery strategies and revenue streams, while planning for the next year, with contingency planning and risk management, in light of the present Covid-19 situation as well as the post Covid-19 situation to form a robust and resilient export industry.

In conclusion the Chamber is aware of the global market realities and is closely watching the strategies and Best Practices adopted by these markets particularly the steps they plan to take on their recovery process, which may be useful in steering the course of our export’s strategy in the near term.

 We are also keeping track of the global economy growth rates, and relevant economic indicators, which will have a direct impact on the demand and off take of our exports, particularly for the apparel industry. 

We see these challenges as business realities which we would have to face, both seen and unseen and build an environment of preparedness and opportunity in a market where the variables keep changing constantly.

The writer is the Immediate Past President of the National Chamber of Exporters.