While the garment exports of Sri Lanka increased by 25.7 percent in 2021 from 3.939 billion US dollars in 2020, the garment export volume of the South Asian nation narrowly missed the 5-billion-US-dollar mark by reaching 4.951 billion US dollars in 2021, according to the “External Sector Performance” report for December 2021 published by the Central Bank of Sri Lanka earlier this month. Textile exports increased by 37 percent year-on-year to 355.4 million US dollars in 2021.
Sri Lanka’s garment exports are one of the major contributors to overall industrial exports, which stood at over 9.7 billion US dollars in 2021, up by 26.5 percent from 7.6 billion US dollars in 2020, thus making up 51 percent of all industrial exports; textiles and garment exports together even accounted for 56 percent.
“Earnings from the export of industrial goods increased by 21.3 percent in December 2021, compared to December 2020. This increase was due to a broad-based increase in earnings from most of the industrial products led by garments, petroleum products, food, beverages, and tobacco and rubber products. … Export of garments to all major markets improved,” states the report.
The previous year, Sri Lanka's textiles and garment exports fell by 21 percent to 4.423 billion US dollars due to the Covid pandemic, compared to exports of 5.596 billion US dollars in 2019. Though Sri Lankan garment factories soon resumed production for major markets like the US and Europe, some changed their production to making and exporting PPE suits, which caused the steep decline in garment exports. Overall, they picked up again in 2021 and seem to continue this trend in 2022.
According to Aroon Hirdaramani, director of Colombo-based sustainable apparel manufacturer Hirdaramani Group, who spoke at the Sri Lanka Economic Summit in December 2021, growth of the country’s apparel exports to 8 billion US dollars by 2025 is possible if the sector increases its investment in local supply chains.