July exports top $ 1 b mark despite COVID

Tuesday, 4 August 2020 00:58 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

  • Apparel, tea, coconut, rubber, fruits and vegetables, agricultural crop exports do well in July
  • EDB Chief terms Sri Lanka’s export story a ‘true success,’ commends resilience of exporters
  • Bullish on food and agriculture exports, expects these sectors will help achieve $ 10.5 b target for 2020
  • Expresses concerns over global impact from second or third waves of COVID-19

By Charumini de Silva

Proving the country’s resilience and rebound amidst the COVID-19 impact, merchandise exports in July have crossed the $ 1 billion mark, an achievement last enjoyed in January this year.

Provisional data shows that merchandise exports in July have surpassed $ 1 billion. This is slightly higher than the $ 998.5 million achieved in July last year, whilst pointing to a continuous pick up in exports as against $ 587 million in May and $ 906 million in June. Soon after the COVID-19 pandemic erupted exports in April fell to $ 277.4 million.

“We are optimistic and anticipate that we will be able to sustain this trend for the rest of the year,” EDB Chairman Prabhash Subasinghe told the Daily FT.

He said in July apparel, tea, coconut, rubber, fruits and vegetables and other agricultural crop exports had performed extremely well.

“This reflects the resilience of the exporter community amidst tough times owing to the COVID-19 pandemic,” he emphasised. “Sri Lanka’s export story is a true success. The exporters are quite resilient and agile to the market conditions and have added value to the customers even during these most difficult times,” he stressed.

Subasinghe was bullish about the food and agriculture exports and expressed confidence that these sectors would help Sri Lanka achieve the $ 10.5 billion target set for the year.

“Although export of apparel was a major concern in April, it has performed well beyond our expectations,” the EDB Chairman noted.

Though insufficient orders for the apparel sector beyond August is a concern, Subasinghe was optimistic and highlighted that it was important to assess the development on a monthly basis, as all economies were navigating through uncharted waters with the world facing one of the worst economic downturns due to COVID-19.

He said the US and the EU would continue to dominate the export markets for Sri Lanka for the remaining months of the year. “In spite of the high number of COVID-19 cases in the US, it has been a very strong market for our exports. We hope the trend will continue regardless of the US Presidential Election in November,” he added.

Sri Lanka’s single largest export market is the US, which accounted for 27% of total merchandise exports last year, while Europe accounted for 30%.

The EDB Chairman was concerned about any second or third waves of COVID-19 like in Australia and other countries in South East Asia. 

In that context he commended the Government’s early and strict measures implemented to control the spread of COVID-19 in Sri Lanka as well as for the continued focus, support and strength extended to the export sector.