BOI to the rescue of export companies

Thursday, 18 June 2020 00:00 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

AGIO’s Ranga Jayasuriya

Ansel Lanka’s Shalani Abeysundara


COVID-19, an ongoing menace to the world, is the first crisis since the 1930s to engulf both advanced and developing economies.

The efforts of global leaders and medical experts to minimise the spread of the virus can be seen with the implementation of movement control, increased expenditure on healthcare and travel bans.

Ansel Lanka’s Thakshila Mihirani
AGIO’s Dilrukshi Dharmawansha

Although a country’s main priority is the wellbeing of its population, beyond the crisis it is essential to address the economic impact of COVID–19 pandemic as well.

Economies all around the world are feeling the contraction as COVID–19 disrupts global supply chains, manufacturing, distribution channels and demand.

Proactive measures of BOI

While it signals a higher possibility of a global recession, Sri Lanka too is sentiment about her own home challenges. In this situation the Board of Investment of Sri Lanka (BOI) took proactive actions towards safeguarding its ventures as their contribution is immense to the economy of Sri Lanka.

In 2019, Sri Lanka’s import expenditure was $ 22 billion, while the export earnings stood at $.16.4 billion. Most of the export earnings were gained through the factories under the purview of the Board of Investment of Sri Lanka.

Presently there are 1,700 companies operating under the wings of the BOI. These ventures have contributed 80% of the industrial export earnings of the country.

The key sectors identified to suffer the most due to the COVID-19 pandemic in the country include; apparel, manufacturing and tourism. With the island wide curfew imposed as a containment effort to the spread of the virus, Sri Lanka’s manufacturing sector took a massive blow during the hold of production and lack of manpower to continue operations.

However, the BOI took proactive measures in facilitating its companies in this adverse situation and it paves off maximum to the ventures which are under its care.

Experiences and appreciation

Export Processing Zone, Biyagama AGIO Managing Director Anura Siriwardena expressing his views on this pandemic situation stated that it was the first time they had faced a crisis of this nature during their 35 years of establishment in Sri Lanka.

AGIO products are exported mainly to Belgium, Netherlands, the US and Europe.

“During this crisis period, the Government announced curfew throughout the country on 20 March, and a massive export was lined up for shipment inside the factory. We were panicking for failing to send the order on time. Therefore, we needed to start our operations somehow during the month of April. But it was an impossible target, since all the Government organisations specially the Customs and the Port were locked down. 

In this situation, we made a request to the Director General of the BOI to give a helping hand in starting our production process. In return, we received a very positive response from the BOI team to start up with our proceedings,” he said. “Accordingly, we started our production process in mid of April. The exports were shipped to their export destinations on time with the blessings of the BOI. We highly appreciate the commitment of the staff at Biyagama EPZ, including the Police Department and the PHI’s office at Biyagama. 

They took an extra mile to serve our company through numerous challenges. If we had failed to do that particular order at the given time, we would have missed all our future orders and the export earnings too will definitely have had a drawback. The BOI team from the top to bottom made a great contribution towards a smooth operation. 

“As a company we adhere to the COVID–19 prevention guidelines provided by the Ministry of Health. Though the cost involved in this has doubled our expenses, especially in transportation, sanitising and wearing personal protection equipment we were very much keen on the well-being of our employees as they are our greatest asset,” Siriwardena pointed out.

Ranga Jayasuriya, an employee who has 24 years of experience in AGIO, said that they felt a sense of uncertainty about their jobs during the lockdown. But upon their return to the factory, she mentioned that they all felt homely and secured by the provided safety measures.

Dilrukshi Dharmawansha working as a machine operator with eight years of experience in AGIO too expressed her gratitude to the company for ensuring their safety measures. “The new health and safety measures have now become a normalcy to our life pattern. We should appreciate the face recognition system introduced by the company instead of the finger print,” she added.

Ansel Lanka, leading glove manufacture, was another venture functioned during the lockdown. Senior Human Resources Manager Tissa Thalagune stated that during the pandemic they received special orders in manufacturing gloves through the BOI.

As gloves become a growing need in the present situation, it has made a platform to upgrade their production capacity. In addition, the firm has recruited 600 new employees during this period was another achievement. Presently over 3,500 workers are employed in this venture and it has existed for nearly 30 years in Sri Lanka.

Locally-sourced raw material ‘rubber’ is being used for their production and is highly beneficial for Sri Lanka. “A truly impressive service rendered by the BOI in all the activities throughout our process,” Thalagune said, sharing his views about the cooperation extended to them by the BOI.

“During this pandemic, I felt happy to be a team player in manufacturing gloves for the world,” stated Thakshila Mihirani.

Shalani Abeysundara working in the Ansell laboratory service said that they were privileged to serve Ansell, as they are being very well looked after. 

According to her, the company has taken the necessary actions to maintain social distancing, wearing Personal Protection Equipment (PPEs), providing hand washing, sanitising facilities and secure transportation facilities.

Biyagama Zone Director Kalyani Boteju stated that it has been the hardest challenge in her life being as a Director facilitating the needs of the companies with a minimum staff. “Despite the islandwide curfew and given the constraints, the BOI continued to provide all essential services even with a limited staff, putting the manufacturing sector in order. The BOI team was simply encouraged to do their best in this unique situation,” she added.