Sri Lanka’s Brandix, an apparel group with operations in India and Bangladesh is turning its factories into making personal protective equipment (PPE) in the battle against Coronavirus as orders for regular clothes dry up, an official said.
In Sri Lanka it factories are making cotton masks for an international brand.
About 9,000 out of over 30,000 workers in its factories in Sri Lanka are already involved in making PPE and will be ramped up to around 16,000 shortly, Hasitha Premaratne, Group Finance Director of Brandix who also heads India operations of the group said.
In India where Brandix has over 20,000 workers, the group has started making protective clothing for domestic needs. Material for hazmat style suits is produced in India itself.
India has banned the export of most PPEs.
In a knee jerk reaction, Sri Lanka’s National Medical Regulatory Authority also banned exports of masks and also slammed price controls, triggering shortages island-wide and blocking domestic manufacturers also from producing masks.
The controls, which make any crisis worse, have since been lifted.
In Sri Lanka Brandix is making masks out of material made at its Teejay Lanka weft knit plant which is now running at almost full steam.
“It is almost fully loaded,” Premaratne said.
Brandix has also taken orders for PPE and is making arrangements to farm out production to Sri Lanka’s small and medium apparel exporters who are unable to pay salaries of workers and are about to collapse.
“We want to help the entire industry as much as possible,” he said.
The masks are made to comply with US and European regulations.
At Brandix and other factories, new health regulations mean that workers have to be spaced out, and much less than the usual staff can work.
Premaratne said space that was earlier allocated to other activities such as sorting rooms is being re-jigged as factory space.
Ranel Pathirana, Director of Sri Lanka’s Hirdramani group which also has overseas operations said many factories around the world are now turning to PPEs and margins will rapidly decline.
Sri Lanka’s 5 billion US dollar apparel export business is expecting to lose 1.5 billion US dollars of business in the March to June quarter. (Colombo/May04/2020-sb)