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Sri Lanka merchandise exports drop 42-pct in March amid Covid-19

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka’s merchandise exports have dropped 42 percent to 645 million US dollars in March 2020, with apparels falling 41 percent to 531 million US dollars and tea falling 50 percent to 62.5 million US dollars, the state export promotion office said.

A Coronavirus epidemic in China at first disrupted inputs for the export industry, then a spreading pandemic in the West killed demand. A domestic lockdown then halted factories, many of which have started operations in April.

In the quarter ending March, merchandise exports fell 19 percent to 3,382 million US dollars from 4,176 million US dollars in 2019.

In the quarter to March 2020, merchandise export earnings have fallen 17.6 percent to 2,577 million US dollar, down from 3,116 million a year earlier.

Estimated service exports, made up of information technology and outsourcing, financial services, logistics and tourism were down 24 percent to 805 million US dollars from 1,060 million US dollars.

Total good and services exports were down to 3,322 million US dollars in the first quarter of 2020 from 4,176 million US dollars a year earlier.

Some exporters have also been hit by import controls slapped to contain a foreign exchange shortages as the central bank printed money in a ‘monetary stimulus’, despite having a soft-pegged exchange regime.

Exports of rubber products fell 35 percent to 55.8 million US dollars, coconut products were down 38 percent to 38 million US dollars, engineering products were down 48 percent to 27 million US dollars and food and beverages were down 14 percent to 29 million US dollars.

Other exports were down 47 percent to 54 million US dollars.

Petroleum products made up mostly of aviation fuel and ship bunkers grew 16 percent to 28 million US dollars.

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Sri Lanka’s Export Development Board said Coconut Milk Powder, Defatted Coconut, Coconut Kernel Products, Coconut Shell Charcoal, Essential Oils, Oleoresins, Ginger, Lemons, Melons & Papayas, Onions, Sweet Potatoes, Processed Food, Rice, Green Gram, Lentils, had shown growth.

Organic Chemicals, Electrical Transformers, Boat Building also grew in March.

“..[T]he EDB is taking every effort to assist the exporters to resume operations and we firmly believe that exports will be back on track in the near future,” Chairman Prabhash Subasinghe sad.

Demand for seafood and tea is strong in export markets officials have said, while apparels which have been badly hit were adapting to making personal protective equipment (PPEs).

Sri Lanka’s National Medical Regulatory Authority and Consumer Affairs Authority, the two price control agencies, initially placed price ceilings and export bans in a knee jerk reaction amid economic illiteracy, blocking domestic production.

The controls that blocked domestic production, supply, and export potential have been removed. (Colombo/Apr30/2020-sb)

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