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Sri Lanka’s Apparel Exports Surge in October

Sri Lanka exported 48.3% more garments in October 2013 than it did during the same month last year, according to information released today by the country’s Central Bank. Total apparel exports from the island nation were $418 million, compared to $282.1 million in October 2012.

In the ten months from January through October 2013, Sri Lanka exported apparel valued at $3.4 billion, an 8.6% increase over the $3.13 billion in exports for the same period in 2012. Knitwear, which comprises over half of year-to-date exports, has seen the biggest jump this year, up 26% over 2012.

The U.S. and Europe are Sri Lanka’s largest apparel customers, representing about 70% of the country’s apparel export total. Apparel exports from Sri Lanka to the U.S. have grown by 14.8% so far this year, helped by a 43% surge in October exports. Sri Lanka recently overtook Pakistan as the tenth largest source (on a dollar basis) of U.S. imported apparel.

Sri Lanka apparel exports to the E.U. have increased 11.4%, accelerated by a 53% spike in October exports.

Apparel and textiles are the country’s largest export categories, in dollar terms, at about 43% of total annual exports. Apparel and textile exports totaled $3.8 billion in 2012, and are on track to exceed $4.1 billion this year. The sector is credited with helping drive the nation’s accelerating GDP growth, which was 7.8% in the third quarter.

But there’s also a downside to Sri Lanka’s economic growth and its expected emergence of a middle-income economy, according to Central Bank Governor Ajith Nivard Cabraal, who warned that a potential shortage of skilled workers in the next two or three could slow economic growth, and advised the nation’s textile and garment industries to prepare for the anticipated changes, just as it did when it lost the GSP Plus privileges.