EDB revises strategic plan to bolster exports | Sunday Observer
Meeting post Covid-19 challenges

EDB revises strategic plan to bolster exports

Prabhash Subasinghe
Prabhash Subasinghe

The Export Development Board (EDB), the country’s apex Trade Promotion Organisation (TPO) has revised its strategic plan with a focus on addressing what the EDB should do during and the post Covid–19 period and how it should operate to fulfill its mandated role having aligned with the National Policy Framework and National Export Strategy, EDB Chairman Prabhash Subasinghe told Sunday Observer Business.

The EDB is adopting and implementing five strategic pillars which cut across various areas ranging from; supporting exporters to bolster their exports, promoting new exports from Sri Lanka to transform the Sri Lanka export basket, generate export-led foreign investment into the country, enhance capacity building and diversify into new markets.

“Based on these five strategic objectives, the EDB is in the process of finalising its action plan focusing on immediate, medium and long term strategies,” Subasinghe said. According to the chief of the apex export promotion body, the EDB has been playing a pivotal role especially throughout the crisis as an umbrella organisation for any matter related to international trade.

“Covid-19 has become the major concern of the export sector and the EDB is giving its fullest support to exporters to carry out their businesses which are currently operating at a lower level, to gradually alleviate this situation,” Subasinghe said.

 He also said that Sri Lanka has been overdependent on a few markets and has been catering to these markets over the past decades and added that Sri Lankan companies facing difficulties should be willing to diversify to new markets while scouting for new opportunities to embark on and establish themselves.

“The EDB firmly believes that there is a great opportunity to establish strong FTAs with countries such as China, to engage in new export opportunities taking the crisis situation into consideration.

We should enhance the production capacity of such sectors where the world demand is rising, while continuously attempting to sell what the country already has,” the EDB chief said. He said EDB officers have been working tirelessly to help exporters by setting up a  helpline/help desk  to provide assistance during the present situation, publishing  updates  of government directives, circulars, letters and guidelines  on the EDB website and liaising on behalf of the exporters with all the higher authorities to address their issues and concerns, connecting exporters with Foreign Missions and Ambassadors to find new opportunities, facilitating the obtaining of  curfew passes, abiding with health guidelines issued and implemented by the government and communicating news alerts  to all Sri Lankans on overseas markets by taking initiatives in publishing various news articles pertaining to export related services to continue their businesses.

Elaborating on the present status of exports and the future of the sector, he said most of the export orders received so far are in the manufacturing sector.

However, there is a decline in new orders in some sectors

 “We also see that new orders are coming in especially for the sectors that are in high demand due to the pandemic situation. Such sectors include personal protective equipment (PPE), agriculture and food processing.”

He said there are a large number of inquiries for PPE and some of the major garment factories have shifted their production lines to manufacture these items.

Some are investing on specific machinery to cater to these orders.

 The order books of rubber glove (surgical/medical) manufacturing companies are full till the end of this year. “The EDB is constantly on the lookout for such specific opportunities that Sri Lanka could maximise on,” Subasinghe said.

On commodities and markets, the EDB chief said the focus has been on identifying various measures to diversify export revenue streams.  The crisis has also opened up new opportunities; particularly the manufacture of face masks, medical wear, personal protective equipment, ventilators, hospital beds and medical bed linen, peripheral equipment for ventilators, soap, sanitisers, surgical masks, sanitary tissue, disinfectants and pharmaceuticals for export to the EU, the USA and Asian countries.

“According to information received from Sri Lanka missions overseas, products such as fresh fruits, vegetables, herbal medicines, tea, daily food products, canned and packed essential food items with long shelf life, household appliances, rice, cookies, confectionery, processed food, professional services and IT related services have increased in demand in Japan, Saudi Arabia, Iran, Cyprus, Russia, Belarus, Uzbekistan, Israel, Indonesia, Egypt, the UK, Canada, Korea, Australia, Turkey  and we expect exporters to capitalise on these opportunities,” he said.