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Monday April 15th, 2024

Sri Lanka’s fuel and dollar shortage dents lucrative garment exports industry

ECONOMYNEXT – Despite a full-order book at the moment, Sri Lanka’s apparel exporters feel their customers shifting their orders to de-risk from Sri Lanka’s ongoing crisis.

The five billion dollars industry, a top dollar earner of the country, so far has a full order book.

But for the second season (the industry runs on a six-months cycle) that is to begin in July, exporters are saying they are seeing signs of customers pulling out to be on the safer side.

“We are seeing a reduction on the horizon and that is not because of the sector’s ability to deliver to the customer but more because of the customer seeing the country as risk; so to de-risk what they have in Sri Lanka,” Yohan Lawrence, Secretary General of Joint Apparel Association Forum of Sri Lanka, said.

“Where they bought 100, they’ll buy 80. The impact will probably be seen in July/August.”

If the apparel customers of Sri Lanka start to cut down on orders now, the impact of that will be seen only in July or August when the new production season starts.

“We are seeing early signs of customers moving orders to other countries, mainly because they are worried about the country’s social stability,” Rehan Lakhany, former Chairman of Sri Lanka Apparel Exporter Association, said.

“Mainly with what they (customers) see on the news in foreign media, they are worried about whether we are able to operate our factories and if we can deliver goods on time to their stores.”

Customers are sending questionaries to exporters on a daily basis inquiring about the country’s situation.

“We need to show stability in our ports, transport sector, and diesel supply. Unless some concrete assurance is given to them, not just verbal [assurance, they will move orders],” said Lakhany.

He added that there’s unnecessary fear among buyers, but regardless, the country needs to show them that the banks are able to make payments on time and give assurance that operations are running as usual.

The main three factors worrying them now is the shortage of liquidity of dollars in the bank, Lakhany said.

“A lot of the banks don’t have dollars now. Even if we give them a 100 million from exports, they are not able to give us the same 100 million for the import of raw materials.

“We have taken orders, but banks are unable to make the payments. Banks are having liquidity issues in foreign currency.”

The second concern buyers have is the fuel shortage as generators must be run during power cuts and to transport employees.

The third concern is social stability of the country.

In the first four months of 2022, the industry has earned 1.8 billion dollars.

Hanging by a thread

The 30-year-old Sri Lanka’s apparel industry, once known for its quality and reliability has become a question mark among its customers as social instability and a severe dollar and fuel shortage continue to cripple the country.

Compared to regional competitors, Sri Lanka’s garment export size is very small but the quality of its products has made it a favorite among its dollar rich European and American buyers

The Export Development Board (EDB) specifically notes that the island’s fame in apparel is because of its “excellence in speedy delivery and reliability.”

The “Made in Sri Lanka” label is synonymous with quality, reliability, social and environmental accountability, EDB says.

But it all may come to an end as the country goes through its worst economic created by years of bad monetary practices funneled by money printing.

Lakhany says no matter how much they try to say that despite the challenges factories and businesses are operating, the customers are not ready accept it.

To aggravate the situation, Shanghai in China has opened up following a two-month strict COVID-19 lockdown.

This Lakhany sees as bad news for Sri Lankan businesses as now the customers have more options to make an easy shift. Shanghai is one of the world’s largest apparel and textile exporters.

Therefore losing even 20 percent of the orders or one month’s export (500 million dollar on average), the exporters say the impact will be multifold.

“If we lose orders, the impact will be unimaginable. The apparel industry runs on margins. Even if we lose 20 percent of orders, the impact will be 80 percent. Factories will end up shutting down,” Lahany said.

He fears that the factories might not be able to provide for the workers.

There are close to 800,000 workers relying on the industry.

On top of this, the manufacturers have difficulty in paying their suppliers who, after being delayed payments, have started to ask for those payments.

“One of our biggest suppliers has been outstanding for so long they want us to pay the supplier. But we can’t pay because the banks are not releasing funds,” Lakhany said.

“So there are multiple factors, and customers pulling out is the last nail on the coffin.”

“If they pull out without any ground and just out of fear, the impact that will be felt in the next four months will be unstoppable.”

The exporters say action must be taken now to mitigate the risks before it’s too late. (Colombo/Jun10/2022)

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  1. Romeish Dias says:

    Spot on govt must act immediately to protect all export related businesses

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  1. Romeish Dias says:

    Spot on govt must act immediately to protect all export related businesses

Iran President to visit Sr Lanka on April 24 anid rising tension, inaugurate Omaoya power project

ECONOMYNEXT – Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi will arrive in Sri Lanka on April 24 on a one-day official visit to inaugurate Tehran-assisted $529 million worth Uma Oya multipurpose development project with 120MW hydro power generation capacity, official sources said.

The announcement on President Raisi’s visit comes two days after Iran launched explosive drones and fired missiles at Israel in its first direct attack on Israeli territory, a retaliatory strike that raised the threat of a wider regional conflict.

“The President is visiting to inaugurate the Omaoya project. He will be on a one-day visit,” an official at Iran embassy in Colombo told EconomyNext.

A Sri Lankan Foreign Ministry official confirmed the move.

This is the first time an Iranian President coming to Sri Lanka Iranian after then President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s visit in April 2008.

The Omaoya project was originally scheduled to be completed in 2015, but had been delayed several times due to unexpected issued faced during the project cycle and funding issue after the United States imposed economic sanctions on Iran and economic crisis in Sri Lanka.

The project was started in 2010 and the funding was to be received as loan grant from the Iranian government. However, Iran was able to provide $50 million before the sanctions. Sri Lanka has to bear the cost after the sanctions.

The project includes storing water in two reservoirs with dams before being brought through a 23 km tunnel to two turbines located underground and generating hydro power with a capacity of 120 megawatts and added to the national grid.

After power generation, the water is expected to be brought to three reservoirs while supplying water to 20,000 acres of old and new paddy fields in both the Yala and Maha cultivating seasons.

The Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) for the construction was signed between the two countries in 2007 while Sri Lanka’s Cabinet approved the execution of the contract agreement between the Executing Agency, Sri Lanka’s Ministry of Irrigation and Water Management (MOIWM) of the GOSL and Iran’s FARAB Energy and Water Projects (FC).

When commencing the project on March 15, 2010, the scheduled date of completion of the project was on March 15, 2015. But the schedule completion date was extended to December 31, 2020 due to the unexpected water ingress into the head race tunnel and followed by social impacts.

The trade between the both countries suffered after the US sanctions. However, Sri Lanka inked a deal in December 2021 with Iran to set off export of tea to Iran against a legacy oil credit owed by state-run Ceylon Petroleum Corporation to the National Iranian Oil Company.

Sri Lanka owes $251 million for crude imported before the US imposed sanctions on Iran. (Colombo/April 15/2024)

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Sri Lanka to discuss two contentious points with bondholders: report

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka and sovereign bondholders are to discuss two matters in the near future which the two sides failed to reach agreement at March talks in London, a media report quoting a top aide to President Wickremesinghe as saying.

Sri Lanka and bondholders had discussed four matters on restructuring international sovereign bonds in late March and agreement had been reached on two, President’s Chief of Staff Sagala Ratnayake was quoted as saying on state-run ITN television.

A restructuring proposal by bondholders was not in line with IMF requirements, and Sri Lanka had sent a counter proposal, he said.

The matters will be discussed at round of talks in the near future.

Sri Lanka was optimistic of reaching an agreement with the bondholders before June, officials have said.

According to matters already in the public domain, sovereign bond holders are keen to get a bond tied to dollar gross domestic product, as they feel IMF growth projections are too low.

In past re-structuring so-called value recovery instruments, a type of warrant, gave their owners extra payments if a country did better than expected and were tied to items like oil prices.

Bondholders had initially proposed bond which would have a lower hair cut initially, and it will have additional hair cuts if growth is low (about 3.1 percent) as projected in an IMF debt sustainability analysis. (Colombo/Apr15/2024)

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BIMSTEC Secretary General visits Sri Lanka, discusses regional cooperation

ECONOMYNEXT – The Secretary General of the Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation (BIMSTEC), discussed measures to enhance regional cooperation, during his visit to the island last week.

Ambassador Indra Mani Pandey, Secretary General of BIMSTEC visited Sri Lanka from 07 – 12 April 2024, following his assumption of office as Secretary General of BIMSTEC in January this year.

The Secretary General “met with senior officials of relevant Ministries/Agencies to discuss measures to enhance regional cooperation under various BIMSTEC initiatives,” the Foreign Ministry said in a statement.

Several BIMSTEC countries have bilateral trade agreements, such as Sri Lanka and India, Thailand and Myanmar, Sri Lanka and Thailand, but no collective regional agreement to enable intra-regional leverage.

During the visit, Secretary General Pandey held discussions with Ministry of Foreign Affairs officials and paid courtesy calls on the President and the Minister of Foreign Affairs.

Secretary General Pandey participated at an event on “Regional Cooperation through BIMSTEC” organized by the Lakshman Kadirgamar Institute (LKI) on 9 April. (Colombo/April15/2024)

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