ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka will ban the import of printed batik and handloom textiles to eliminate competition from imports for domestic producers, State Minister for Batik, Handloom Fabric and Local Apparel Products, Dayasiri Jayasekera said.
He said young were no longer interested in joining the batik industry but the government would set up training centres for 10,000 individuals and pay them 5000 rupees at tax payer expense and train them.
Minister Jayasekera said printed batik cloth rolls will be banned through the applicable Customs HS Codes.
“Secondly, handloom textiles are brought into Sri Lanka in large numbers, so bringing in of handloom textiles is also stopped through a designated HS code,” he added.
Under the Harmonized System of customs codes, each country could specify sub codes to distinguish between individual products.
The availability to cheaper industrial cloth in the 1980s, which competed with kerosene smelling textiles made at state enterprises raised the living standards of the masses.
The trade liberalization also led to the closure of many handloom centres that were established during the closed economy of the 1970s.
However several Colombo based firms in particular helped make handlooms in to a high-end product, with craftsmen being encouraged making higher quality products with better dyes under their brands.
Several firms have also started an export market.
But Minister Jayasekera he will ban imports to limit competition and stop consumers from buying less expensive products. He hopes it will create a bigger market for batik products.
“When a saree is produced in Sri Lanka and given between 2500-3000 to rupees, it is brought from other countries for 800 or 900 or 1000,” he said.
He said that there are about 11,000 makers of batik in Sri Lanka.
It is not clear how many people who bought a batik saree for 800 will be able to by one for 2,500 to 3,000, or whether they will shift to some other type of saree.
But Minister Jayasekera said government will set up a training centre in every electorate from which a member of parliament is elected, to train 10,000 persons.
“Already five have been established,” he said. “We expect to complete 200 training centres within this year. Thirty persons will be trained in every batik centre for three months. They will not only be trained on production but we will teach them sewing too.”
He said not many people were entering the industry.
In order to attract people to the industry, the government is planning on providing 5000 as an incentive for people who sewing handloom textiles in Sri Lanka and that the cabinet paper will be presented in the future.
He said some raw materials needed were also not available.
Sri Lanka has controlled many imports after unprecedented money printing created forex shortages. The rupee has also depreciated. It is not clear whether the materials shortages are related to controls or due to some other issue.
“Next year, starting from the Matara district, we expect to gather all the batik manufacturers in the district and introduce them to the importers of dye and clothes in Sri Lanka and develop a process to address the shortage of these materials,” Minister Jayasekera said.
Jayasekera represents the Matara district. Sri Lanka has appointed a number of ministers for various sectors ranging from clay to handlooms who are required to do some state intervention in their area to show some results.
Minister Jayasekera said there was no plan to for a broad ban on textile imports and only items such as bed sheets and sarees will be banned.
Rulers have already banned a number of products in the expectation that creating a scarcity and driving up prices will bring prosperity to the people of Sri Lanka.
Prices of banned items such as turmeric, green gram, have shot up. Sri Lanka Navy is kept busy nabbing smuggled turmeric from India. Sri Lanka has also banned the import of ethanol to give profits to a loss making expropriated state enterprise.
Brown sugar is also taxed at higher level that while sugar to give profits to the loss making state enterprise. Palm oil is the latest item to be banned. (Colombo/April09/2021)