- JAAF says buyers showing signs of moving to other countries
- Notes regaining confidence of lost customers will be difficult
By Madhusha Thavapalakumar
The ongoing power and energy crises led mainly by the shortage of official foreign exchange reserves have put apparel, the top item in Sri Lanka’s export basket, at risk of losing its international buyers, according to Joint Apparel Association Forum Sri Lanka (JAAF).
JAAF Secretary General Yohan Lawrence, during a press conference conducted by joint export sector associations and chambers last evening (7), stated that the apparel buyers have started showing signs of moving away from Sri Lanka to other potential countries for their apparel needs.
“Because of the lack of confidence buyers are already showing signs of shifting to other apparel-producing countries. I could not put a value on it but there are certain brands that are showing the signs,” Lawrence noted.
According to him, if such buyers move, gaining their confidence back would be a tough task.
He added that the prevailing issues, such as frequent power cuts and the shortage of fuel, have put Sri Lanka’s reputation at stake, as the country’s untainted reputation of delivering products on time is now deteriorating with exporters being unable to clearly indicate to the buyers as to when these local issues will be ironed out.
“The authorities said that by 5 March, there will not be power cuts and there will not be a shortage of diesel but here we are on 7 March, still enduring them,” Lawrence added.
With Sri Lanka’s credibility and reputation being put at risk, what the buyers might do now is simply move away their orders from Sri Lanka to other countries, he stated.
“Now it is time for us as a country to come forward with a credible long-term plan. Authorities get together and give us a solution,” he urged.
According to Lawrence, the prevailing fuel shortage has a massive impact not only on generators but also on the transportation of apparel items. Providing an example, he added that last week, Seethawaka Zone had a power cut, and the factories could not operate.
“Time is obvious in the fashion garment business. When we are late, the first thing the buyers ask us is to air freight the goods and when we air freight, we have to pay a horrendous cost. When air freight is used, our profitability will be impacted and the amount of revenue the industry is making would come down,” he added.
Sri Lanka’s apparel industry expressed confidence in reaching its target of $ 8 billion in export earnings by 2025, by implementing the concerted initiatives put in place by the sector, in collaboration with the authorities.
During the same press conference, other export industries including tea and rubber too expressed the grievances faced by their respective industries due to the prevailing power cut and fuel shortage in the country.