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Textile Industry

Overview of Sri Lankan Textile Industry

The Textile and Apparel Sector is one of the most significant and dynamic contributors to Sri Lanka’s overall economy. The industry has grown over the years to become the primary export earner and the largest single employer of the manufacturing industry. Sri Lanka’s textile and apparel industries could be categorized into three groups.

  • Apparel companies that manufacture mainly to the export market.
  • Textile mills and finishing plants that supply existing apparel exporters or export directly overseas.
  • Companies engaged in accessory manufacture for the export apparel industry Sri Lanka’s textile and apparel companies consist of ninety percent Apparel Manufacturers. The companies are totally foreign or locally owned enterprises and joint ventures. They produce a wide range of international branded clothing such as Victoria’s Secret, Tommy Hilfiger and Ralph Lauren.
  • Nearly 50% of textile and apparel companies operating in Sri Lanka are BOI approved ventures and account for almost 90% of Sri Lanka’s garment export.
  • Export earnings from the textile and apparel sector, which stood at only US$ 161 Mn. in 1982 increased by almost 15 fold to US$ 2.5 Bn. by 1998.
  • The textile and apparel sector has also provided direct and indirect employment opportunities to more than 600,000 and is responsible for over 1/3 of the total employment in the manufacturing sector.

Manufactured products

  • Apparel – blouses, shirts, frocks, trousers, pants, shorts, sweaters/knitted garments and jackets, foundation garments, briefs and lingerie.
  • Textiles – textiles (knitted/woven), socks/stockings, hats, terry towels. Accessories – padding/quilting, interlinings, labels, elastics, yarn, thread, buttons and zippers.

Leading brand names include

  • Liz Claiborne Gap
  • Marks & Spencer London Fog
  • Calvin Klein Pierre Cardin
  • Tesco C&A

Leading international textile/garment companies in Sri Lanka

  • Australia: MGT Group, Forbes Fashion
  • Germany: Ahlers, Adlers, Triumph, ALT United
  • Hong Kong: Fountainset, Megatrend Development
  • Indonesia: Indorama – polyester yarn
  • Korea: Kabool, Tongyang, Samdo Corp, Gooryong Co. Ltd.,
  • UK: Textured Jersey, Martin Emprex, Christy International
  • USA: Mast, Kellwood, Shore to Shore

Sri Lanka’s Competitive and Comparative Advantages Sri Lanka’s competitive advantage promises continuing growth. International companies that wish to invest in the textile and apparel sector should consider the comparative and competitive advantages offered: -

  1. A well established, export-oriented manufacturing industry – Sri Lanka’s apparel manufacturing sector has been an export-oriented industry for over two decades. Currently around 800 companies in Sri Lanka produce a wide range of apparel products including branded names, most of them catering to the international market.
  2. A ready supply of raw material and an expanding resource base – Both foreign and local companies have set up textile mills/finishing plants and many accessory-manufacturing industries to serve the increasing needs of the industry. Most of these companies are labour-intensive, however, modern technology and capital infusion has helped automate and upgrade many existing factories.
  3. A literate and trainable workforce – Sri Lanka has a population of 19.6 Mn and 50% of the population is under 25 years of age. The literacy rate is around 92% and the second highest in Asia. English is widely spoken and understood. 38000 students graduate annually from nine universities with more than 50% specializing in technical and business disciplines. Wages range from US$ 50-100 per month.
  4. The location and infrastructure advantages of investing in Sri Lanka –
    Colombo is said to be one of the most efficient ports – ranked number one in South Asia, amongst the top ten in the region and 26th in the world as per the Lloyds Register.
    Sri Lanka is today emerging as an air services hub in the region. The national airline has been privatized, with Emirates selected as its strategic partner. Internationally experienced cargo and courier operators such as DHL and Evergreen have set up operations in Sri Lanka.
    Well developed and fully serviced industrial estates at competitive costs within 30-50 km distance from the port/airport (Cargo can be sent to the port and shipped within 24 hours) are located in Sri Lanka.
    Over 20 foreign banks have established branch offices in Sri Lanka.
    # Advanced (and constantly expanding) infrastructure in telecommunications, power and transportation.
  5. Compliance with WTO/ILO and international Environment Standards and Requirements- Sri Lanka has for many years been on par with the developed countries in its adoption and compliance in its adoption and compliance of the best labor, trade, and environmental laws and practices in the region.
  6. Prevailing of ELVIS system- In January 2000, the Sri Lankan Apparel Industry entered a new phase with the introduction of the Electronic Visa Information System (ELVIS).

Textile Statistics of Sri Lankan Textile Industry


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