‘New policy for textile and clothing must emerge’

Reference- Sunday Observer. 12th January 2020

By Prof. Rohana U. Kuruppu.

Sri Lanka should create a new policy for textile and clothing aiming to attract more investments, create new jobs and add value to the apparel industry value chain, a leading professional said. “A policy must emerge soon and steps must be taken to implement the policy decision and at the same time, all stakeholders should come together to make the change and carry it forward,” said Chairman, Textile Institute Sri Lanka Section of the Department of Textile and Clothing Technology, University of Moratuwa, Prof. Rohana U. Kuruppu.

He said Sri Lanka had textile manufacturing as an organised industry since 1940s, and clothing industry since 1970s. “Our textile and clothing exports have just reached US$ 5 billion. We have less than 500 outfits in textiles and clothing. However, our neighbours in the South Asian region are much bigger and expanding their industries while we are yet to make greater strides to face the competition,” he said at the annual general meeting of the Textile Institute. The total US textile and clothing imports was US$111 billion in 2018. US imports of textile and clothing increased in value by 4.9% in 2018.

In volume terms, imports rose by 5.9% in 2018. This was an indication that textiles and clothing accounted for a bigger share of total imports to the USA. He said Sri Lanka’s total textile and clothing exports were up by 5.7% in 2018 and out of this exports of clothing increased by 4.7% in 2018 over 2017. The average price of US textile and clothing imports fell in 2018 for the seventh year in succession to a record low of US$ 1.62 per square metre equivalent.

The average import price declined by a total of 14.2% over the seven- year period. The main cause for this was a decline in the average price of imports from China. The US textile and clothing imports from China were up by 4.8% in value and by 6.7% in volume. While the price per square metre equivalent drops year by year, the value and volume increases. This is an incredible achievement. As a result, the share of US textile and clothing imports which came from China in volume terms accounted for 49.3% and in terms of value it accounted for 36.5%. Cambodia, Bangladesh, India and Vietnam also showed a rise in value and volume to the USA. However, the shares of US imports from above countries are not really significant in value and volume terms.

Prof. Kuruppu said the real challenge is to be competitive and yet increase significantly the share of value and volume in the market. For that, “We need to bring in a new broad perspective and a paradigm shift. Our supply chain practices need a new look. The craftsmanship must be perfect and this should be coupled with branded labels. Professional ethics and relationships must be improved.”

Talking about the radical state of uncertainty around the globe, he said, “There’s heightened demand for volatility, geopolitical risks, natural disasters, terrorist attacks, social media disruptions which are all taking their toll on global supply chains. The changes are inevitable and will disrupt the textile supply chains.”

“We need to create a knowledge hub with emerging technologies and innovations such as AI and advancements in material science coupled with digitalisation, big data and analytics to create the perfect platform for modern day business. We need to make a change to keep our industry moving forward. The world is on the verge of a change and this change will have implications on the way we do business in the future.

The ways in which we design, source, manufacture and deliver must be redesigned, if we are truly to stay alive our textile industry,” he added.