Maintaining momentum

Saturday, 4 December 2010 00:01 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

GOOD news can be measured by numbers. Export figures in October have hit a two-year high, bringing smiles to faces during a challenging year that saw apparel exports struggle and foreign investment lag. However, the good news has to be taken in the context of low exports last year that were hampered by the global financial crisis and the fortitude needed to maintain the growth in 2011.

As the year comes to a close, it brings a time of assessment. The Export Development Board (EDB) was quick to reveal its positive statistics on Thursday after the September statistics were marked to be less than positive. September performance was down by US$ 100 million to $ 663 million from the previous high of $ 760 million in August but the EDB numbers show  a two-year high of US$ 790 million, propelling the year to date growth to 12.4%.

Perhaps the most heartening note is that the textile and garment sector, which saw a negative impact for the past nine months, recorded a positive growth of 0.64% for the first time this year. Between January and October, apparel export revenue was $ 2.674 billion. In the first nine months cumulative apparel exports were down by 2.5% to $2.3 billion   

Year on year September performance reflected a growth of 16% whilst the first nine months exports grew by 11.4% to $ 5.7 billion. With a record figure of $ 790 million in October, the cumulative value in the first 10 months was over $ 6.4 billion, reflecting a 12.4% growth in comparison to the corresponding period of 2009.

However, it must be remembered that 2009 was a hard-hit year with the global financial crisis adversely impacting exports. In 2009 exports were only $ 5.3 billion down from $ 6.15 billion in the previous year. So in a critical sense the country is only recovering lost export ground.

When compared to the same period in 2009, agricultural products have seen an increase of 22.2%, recording a figure of $ 1.64 billion and industrial products 9% to $ 4.5 billion. Export earnings from fisheries dropped by 6% reporting $ 138.7 million.

Under agro products, tea recorded a 16 per cent growth rate with $ 1.12 billion while rubber saw a commendable increase of 81%. Coconut exports bought in a revenue of $ 130.9 million, which was an increase of 3% over the first 10 months of the previous year.

Diamonds, gem and jewellery saw an increase of 6.16 per cent, manufacturing by 30.7% and petroleum products by 6.7%. The growth signifies that with each month Sri Lanka’s economic stability is improving and that exports and business sectors are growing in confidence in the world market.

The challenge of maintaining this momentum and ensuring that these numbers continue to grow will be the next focus of all stakeholders. From the perspective of the Government, stable policy, streamlined processes and incentives will need to be provided for exporters, particularly for small and medium enterprises, which will need a helping hand to grow and diversify.

Finding new markets and developing new products continue to be among the strategies employed by the apparel industry to maintain momentum after the loss of GSP+. Even though volumes have remained the same, top garment exporters note that the profits remain average. Hopefully exports have made a positive turn that they can maintain, but the larger quest remains in the future.