Sri Lankan clothing exports grow 23% in 2021

While Sri Lanka’s apparel exports grew 25.7% in 2021 to US$3.939 billion in 2020, the South Asian nation’s apparel export volume just missed the 5 billion mark. US dollars by reaching US$4.951 billion in 2021, according to the “External Sector Performance” report for December 2021 released by the Central Bank of Sri Lanka earlier this month. Textile exports grew 37% year-on-year to reach US$355.4 million in 2021.

Sri Lanka’s garment exports are a major contributor to overall industrial exports, which amounted to over US$9.7 billion in 2021, up 26.5% from US$7.6 billion US dollars in 2020, representing 51% of all industrial exports; exports of textiles and clothing even accounted for 56 per cent.

“Revenue from the export of industrial goods increased by 21.3% in December 2021 compared to December 2020. This increase is due to a general increase in revenue from most industrial products, namely clothing, petroleum, food, beverage, and tobacco and rubber products. … Apparel export to all major markets has improved,” the report said.

The previous year, Sri Lanka’s textile and garment exports fell 21% to US$4.423 billion due to the Covid pandemic, compared to exports of US$5.596 billion in 2019. Although factories Sri Lankan clothing companies quickly resumed production for major markets like the United States and Europe, some shifted their production to manufacture and export PPE suits, which caused the sharp drop in garment exports. Overall, they have recovered in 2021 and seem to continue this trend in 2022.

According to Aroon Hirdaramani, director of the Colombo-based sustainable clothing manufacturer Hirdaramani Group, who spoke at Sri Lanka’s economic summit in December 2021, the country’s clothing exports will grow to US$8 billion by 2025 is possible if the sector increases its investments in local supply chains.

Michael O. Stutler