Sri Lanka’s export growth falls to 3-year low in 2019

19 February 2020 09:37 am - 0     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}


  • Export income grows marginally by 1.4% to reach US$ 16.4bn
  • Merchandise exports flat; services exports up 4.5%
  • Only apparel and tea crossed US$ 1bn mark



Sri Lanka’s total exports growth in 2019 has slowed down to the lowest since 2016, recording a marginal growth of 1.4 percent Year-on-Year (YoY) to reach US$ 16.14 billion, according to the Export Development Board (EDB).

The marginal growth in export income was mainly backed by 4.5 percent YoY growth in service exports, as merchandise exports remained flat.

Merchandise exports reached US$ 11.94 billion in 2019 with a mere US$ 50 million gain compared to 2018 while service exports were estimated at US$ 4.2 billion compared to US$ 4 billion in 2018.

Only export income from apparel (US$ 5.56 billion) and tea (US$ 1. 35 billion) had exceeded the one billion dollar mark in 2019, similar to previous years. 

In 2019, apparel exports, coconut-based products, diamonds/gems & jewellery, ornamental fish, vegetables, fruits and cut flowers & foliage recorded positive growth rates while export of tea and spices declined. 

In addition, rubber & rubber-based products, coconut & coconut based products and engineering products which included electrical and electronic & machinery products and the boat building sectors also recorded export revenue above US $500 million. 

“Contribution from the top 10 products sectors to total exports is over 90 percent, whilst all other subsectors accounted to around 10 percent in terms of value,” EDB said. 

The service exports, which include ICT/BPM, construction, financial services and transport services, are based on an estimated figure. 

Research Director of Verité Research, Subhashini Abeysinghe, who is also a trade economist, recently pointed out that as Sri Lanka had not deployed a robust mechanism to calculate service exports, these figures could be subject to manipulation. 

The US remained as the top export destination for Sri Lanka’s merchandise exports in 2019, accounting for 26 percent (US$ 3.1 billion) share of exports followed by the UK (US$ 998 million), India (US$ 759 million), Italy (US$ 531 million) and Belgium (US$ 352 million).

“Both USA and German markets showed continuous growth over the past five years. Apparel was the key export to USA, whilst the key exports to Germany were apparel and solid tyres. 

However, due to the decrease apparel exports to UK and Italy and the decrease of exports of pepper and copper wires to India, exports to these markets showed a decline,” the EDB stated. Sri Lanka has announced a US$ 18.5 billion export income target for this year.


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