- March export earnings top US $ 1bn for first time since last Sept.
- Apparel, tea and rubber sectors record healthy increases in export earnings
- Spices and essential oils emerge as fastest growing major export category
- USA retains top spot as single largest market for Sri Lankan exports
- EDB estimates services exports to have grown by 20.27% to US $ 1.2bn in 1Q
Sri Lanka’s merchandise export earnings nearly touched the US $ 3 billion mark in the first quarter of the year, after March earnings topped US $ 1 billion for the first time since last September.
Export earnings rose substantially by a 62.47 percent year-on-year (YoY) to US $ 1,066.1 million in March, recovering from the massive slump recorded in the same month, last year, which marked the beginning of the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Driven by record exports in March, Sri Lanka’s overall merchandise export earnings rose by 11.51 percent YoY to US $ 2.95 billion in the first quarter of the year.
On a month-on-month (MoM) basis, export earnings saw a steady growth for the second consecutive month in March, after getting off to a grim start in January.
“Sri Lanka’s exports show a remarkable rise despite the current pandemic situation across the world,” Export Development Board (EDB) Chairman Suresh De Mel commented.
In March, apparel exports sector recorded a 49.10 percent YoY growth to reach US $ 465.35 million, constituting to 43.5 percent of the country’s merchandise export earnings in the month.
In the first quarter, apparel exports also posted a healthy YoY growth of 6.19 percent YoY, posting US $ 1.33 billion earnings, accounting for nearly 45 percent of the value of the country’s export basket.
Meanwhile, tea export earnings almost doubled in March, growing by an impressive 99.33 percent YoY to US $ 124.61 million. According to the EDB, the volume growth in tea exports also rose by 86.69 percent YoY, driven by demand growth seen in the UAE, Chinese and Libyan markets.
Accordingly, tea export earnings in the first quarter rose by 25.2 percent YoY to US $ 338.12 million, just shy of the pre-COVID export earnings figure of US $ 347 million recorded in 2019.
In March, export earnings from rubber and rubber finished products increased by 80.45 percent YoY to US $ 35.06 million, driven by export growth in industrial and surgical gloves and pneumatic and retreated tyres and tubes. Overall, rubber and rubber finished products posted US $ 268.54 million in earnings for the quarter, up 32.06 percent YoY.
The spices and essential oils yet again emerged as the fastest growing major export category by posting a 196.63 percent YoY jump to US $ 38.71 million in export earnings in March. “The growth is mainly due to increased exports of cinnamon (1425.9 percent), pepper (140.58 percent) and cloves (226 percent),” the EDB noted.
Further, spices and essential oils also became the fastest growing major export category, growing at a 122.37 percent YoY and its export value reaching US $ 114.30 million in the quarter. In addition, earnings from all the major categories of coconut-based products increased by 109.57 percent YoY to US $ 80.14 million in March and by 42.18 percent YoY to US $ 194.69 million in the first quarter.
The earnings from electronics and electronic components exports also rose by 24.51 percent YoY, exceeding the US $ 100 million mark in the quarter.
Export earnings from the diamond, gems and jewellery category also rebounded to US $ 20 million, growing by 185.47 percent YoY in the month and posting export earnings of US $ 64.90 million for the quarter.
However, the declining trend seen in export earnings from boat building and petroleum products categories was extended to March as well as for the quarter, while export earnings from seafood, vegetables and fruits showed signs of recovery in March.
Although with a marginal growth of 0.94 percent YoY, the USA retained its top spot as the single largest market for Sri Lanka’s exports, purchasing US $ 715.4 million worth of exports in the first quarter of the year, accounting for nearly a quarter of the export earnings.
China along with the Netherlands became the fastest growing markets for Sri Lankan exports in March and the quarter.
China’s share in Sri Lankan’s merchandise export earnings rose to 2.6 percent in the quarter, from the 1.8 percent recorded in the first quarter of last year. In addition, China also became the eighth largest export destination for Sri Lankan goods, moving ahead of Canada.
Meanwhile, the Netherlands emerged as the second largest export market for Sri Lankan goods in the European Union (EU), moving ahead of Belgium during the quarter.
Overall, the EU (excluding the UK) became the largest market for Sri Lankan goods in the quarter, with the export value of Sri Lankan merchandise to the EU reaching US $ 733.51 million, with a 31.14 percent YoY growth rate.
Meanwhile, the EDB estimated services exports to have grown by 20.27 percent YoY to US $ 1.2 billion in the first quarter.
The estimated service export figure is inclusive of the service categories of ICT/BPM, construction, financial services and transport and logistics.