Sri Lanka rubber industry calls for state support
ECONOMYNEXT- Sri Lanka’s rubber producers, who export nearly 1 billion US dollars annually, is calling for state support during the coronavirus pandemic, reminding that the industry is making essential gloves for healthcare practitioners combating the crisis.
Sri Lanka’s government had extended moratoriums for working capital debt, and directed such operational loans to be provided at cheap rates.
However, tourism and apparel sectors, which bring in 4-5 billion US dollars in foreign exchange were given special moratoriusm.
Sri Lanka Association of Manufacturers and Exporters of Rubber Products Director General Rohan Masakorala said the rubber industry has not yet been consulted on the impact of coronavirus.
“Our members have expressed disappointment as the government has failed to look at the traditional export sector.”
“We have written to the Minister of Plantations and Industries to get their attention to these vital sectors of the economy just as the other export industries.”
The rubber industry is supporting the government by supplying medical gloves to the Health Ministry, he said.
Sri Lanka’s rubber industry is also a large exporter of rubber gloves. According to International Trade Centre statistics, of the 979.4 million US dollars in raw and processed rubber exports, 197.3 million US dollars are rubber glove sales, with the US and Germany being key clients.
“We need the government to facilitate the production of the rubber industry, as our members provide medical gloves that has a local as well as international demand as hospitals need the products,” Masakorala said.
“We expect a downturn of about 40 percent of rubber exports this year and a large number of SMEs are going to get affected through the supply chain.”
“If our exporters are not given the proposed moratorium of six months repayment of loans and working capital loans at 4 percent, the impact could be even worse.”
He said support should be extended to rubber farmers as well, since there are already reports of rubber tapping slowing down, affecting thousands of households.
“Things are not easy for the rubber industry and we expect government to treat all exporters (direct & indirect) in a fair and an equitable manner, through a sustainable policy on export sector,” Masakorala said. (Colombo/Mar24/2020)
Kithmina Hewage- Institute of Policy Studies