From left: Walter Perera (Executive Member), Bandula Fernando (President), Ranjith Tissera (Executive Member). Back row- from left: Roshan Paranavithana (Executive Member), Wasantha Gamage (Executive Member) during a press conference held at Sarasavi Exports in Kottawa
- Say their membership finding difficult to obtain govt. announced financial concessions
- Some members cannot even pay March employee salaries
- Say membership lost significant amount of orders, and foreign buyers halted payments
- SME apparel exporters account for 30% total apparel exporters and over 100, 000 direct and indirect jobs
Sri Lanka’s small and medium-scale apparel exporters regret that they are yet to receive the relief package announced by the Gotabaya Rajapaksa-led government and it has caused several cash-strapped SME exporters to run into difficulties in paying employee salaries for March and April.
“The financial concession promised by the government has been very difficult for our members to obtain. That is mainly because all their assets have been mortgaged to the banks.
“Also, banks are granting this loan only for the payment of salaries during the months of April and May, which is clearly not enough to come out of this difficult situation. It is sad to say that some are even struggling to pay the March salaries,” Small and Medium Garments Exporters Association (SMGEA) President Bandula Fernando said addressing a recent press conference in Kottawa.
The apparel sector, which accounts for nearly 40 percent of the country’s merchandise export income, has been dealt a crippling blow by the coronavirus pandemic with foreign buyers cancelling orders they had placed before the exacerbation of the health crisis.
SMGEA Executive Committee Member Ranjith Tissera noted that their membership lost significant amount of orders while many other orders were postponed.
In addition, foreign buyers have also suspended payment for exported goods.
The Association has provided over 100,000 jobs directly and indirectly and it accounts for 30 percent of the total apparel exports of the country through its 80 factories across the island.
“This kind of situation makes payment of salaries of employees of these factories for April and May a huge problem. With no money coming in, our members are also unable to pay back the capital loans they have already obtained. Our only expectation at this moment is to protect our valuable human resources,”
SMGEA President Fernando pointed out that although President Rajapaksa had ordered to waive off late charges for goods to be released from the harbour, the officers in lower ranks are reluctant to release the consignments without an extra fee for the delay, which is caused by the curfew.
“It’s highly unfair,” Fernando lamented.
Tissera cautioned that a further delay in implementing the measures of the relief package could cause massive loss of foreign exchange to the country.
“Therefore, we are requesting from the government to provide us with concessions and give us some sort of relief so that we can protect this industry which brings foreign exchange to
“If we fail to act as soon as possible and don’t do what is necessary to quickly restore the apparel industry, it will be a huge loss to the country,” he added.