ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka’s ceramic industry has potential to expand exports using red clay deposits to make roofing tile and other products but would need to upgrade standards first, a forum was told.
“Red clay is now used only in roof tiles and bricks but it is a potentially vaster field,” said Jude Fernando, director of the Centre of Technical Excellence in Ceramics (CENTEC).
“Take wall tiles, floors tiles, bricks, cook ware, figurines – many products can be made from red clay,” he told a forum held by the Sri Lanka Ceramics and Glass Council.
Future plans include getting Sri Lanka Standards (SLS) certification for 21 factories and improving tile quality so that they are ready for the export market.
“There’s a need for new products, shapes, colours,” Fernando said. “If the industry can make a good quality, standard tile we can export it. We aim to get Export Development Board (EDB) support to export SLS certified tiles by 2017.
”Developing trust on roof tiles is important. Now trust is low because of low quality tiles which break or leak,” he said. “With the SLS mark and quality improvement, we hope to develop trust with customers.”
Red clay tiles would be an environmentally friendly product with high durability and lifetime that could be exported.
“Roof tile porosity helps absorb water absorbs during the wet season,” Fernando said. “In the dry season, latent heat in environment vaporises the moisture and it has a cooling effect.”
The cooling effect of red clay roof tiles could be exploited to market them overseas, EDB chairman Bandula Egodage said.
Producers need to make low weight tiles, with stylish designs and change colour, he told the forum.
Explaining how CENTEC is helping to develop the red clay industry in Sri Lanka, Fernando said they were trying to form a cluster of the more than 100 small-scale roof tile factories with the aim of upgrading skills and production techniques.
CENTEC aims to provide research and development to improve industry production efficiency and product quality to help companies compete in the global marketplace.
A roof tile sub-council was formed under the Ceramics and Glass Council and producers told of what they can gain by working together with the council, Fernando said. (Colombo/August 14 2015)