EDB will establish 1,000 export promotion villages – Chairman Suresh De Mel
The Sri Lanka Export Development Board will install 1,000 Export Promotion Villages within the next five years, Chairman De Mel told Daily News Business in an interview this week.
He also said that new strategic objectives of the EDB will be to support the network of existing exporters to bolster their exports, promote new exports from Sri Lanka to transform the current Sri Lanka export basket, Diversify into new markets and enhance capacity building etc.
He was speaking to the Daily News Business Meet the Chairman feature on the sidelines of the Presidential Export Awards ceremony for both 2019/ 2020 and 2020/2021, billed to be held recently at the BMICH. President Gotabaya Rajapaksa was the Chief Guest.
Q: How were the exports sector performing?
Sri Lanka’s merchandise exports increased by 35.9% to US$ 1,160.62 million in October 2021 compared to October 2020 as per the data released by the Sri Lanka Customs. Exports maintained above one billion for the fifth time this year. This is the highest-ever merchandise export figure in any October in our history. Opening up of Western markets together with the sustained production in Sri Lanka can be attributed to this increase. I commended our exporters for this outstanding performance during these difficult times.
Export earnings from Apparel & Textile have increased by 42.8 % y-o-y to $ 509 million in October 2021 with strong performance in exports of Apparel (43.4%), Woven Fabrics (86.6%) and Made-Up Textile Articles (116.3%).
Q: What were the key markets for Sri Lanka?
A: Strong export performance was recorded for the 10 major export markets, which accounted for 63% of total merchandise exports during the period January to October 2021.
During the first ten months of 2021, exports to the United States of America, Sri Lanka’s single largest export destination, increased by 18.1 % to US$ 2,466.7 million compared to the same period of 2020. Exports to the United Kingdom as the second largest trading partner recorded an increase of 0.2 % to US$ 768 million during the period of January to October 2021 compared with the corresponding period of previous year.
Q: What are the export targets set for 2021?
A: The revised export target of the Export Development Board for 2021 is US$ 15.72 billion and of that we expect US$ 12.14 billion from merchandise exports and US$ 3.58 billion from services exports. During the period January to October 2021, earnings from exports recorded US$ 12.6 billion including the estimated services data for July to October and 80 % achieved from the revised export target.
Q:What are the steps taken to develop exports with foreign missions?
A: EDB has also created a platform to develop bilateral trade between several countries and with Bangladesh as well for multi-party meetings on enhancing bilateral trade. Minister of Trade, Dr. Bandula Gunawardane too is keen to promote this concept.
We held a series of discussions with foreign missions in this regard with positive results. Exporters too joined these meetings physically as well as via zoom platforms. Representatives from several Government institutions attended these meetings and issues faced by the Sri Lankan exporters when exporting were taken up for discussion.
These meetings provide a good platform for the Sri Lankan business community to share and discuss their views and concerns with the High Commissioner as well as the relevant Government authorities of Sri Lanka in order to meet the objective of increasing exports.
Q: What are the Presidential Export Awards and its benefits to exporters?
A: The Presidential Export Awards (PEA) is the highest and the most prestigious award presented by His Excellency the President of Sri Lanka to the best exporters in recognition of their outstanding contribution made to the export sector and to the economic development of the country in one particular financial year.
EDB has organized 23 ceremonies during the past years and this year we are organizing 24th PEA Ceremony on 26thNovember 2021 at the BMICH under the prevailing health Guidelines of COVID 19.
Q: What was the significance of this year’s awards?
A: During this year’s ceremony we are giving away the awards for two financial years, 2019/20 and 2020/21, as we could not organize last year’s ceremony due to the COVID 19. There are 330 applications for both financial years showing an increasing trend of applying for this prestigious national event.
There are 65 Awards for each year (12 Overall Awards and 53 Sectoral Awards) and a total number of 130 awards are proposed to be given away during this year’s Ceremony. Keeping in line with the new government Policy Framework, EDB has initiated strategies to enter into new markets (market diversification), expand Sri Lanka’s export product basket by introducing innovative new products (product diversifications) and adding value to the existing products (value addition).
Further, new strategic objectives of EDB; viz support existing exporters to bolster their exports, Promote new exports from Sri Lanka to transform the current Sri Lanka export basket, Diversify into new markets, Enhance capacity building etc.
Q: A Brief History of the Presidential Export Awards?
A: The PEA Scheme was formulated in 1981 with the objective of recognizing the contribution made by the exporters to the national export sector. Twenty-three (23) Award ceremonies have been held so far to reward exporters for their outstanding performance during the period from 1981 to 2019.
There is a continuous process of evaluating the guidelines for selecting awards in order to achieve optimal results and to keep pace with international standards and trends. The last Presidential Export Awards Ceremony (i.e., 23rd PEA Ceremony) was successfully organized on 18 September 2019 with the participation of around 1,500 invitees including several Cabinet Ministers, State Ministers, Diplomatic corps and the large number of exporters.
Q: What is the purpose of such an awards ceremony?
A: The objective of the PEA is to recognize significant contributions made by exporters to the export sector of the country and to the national economy.
With the COVID -19 pandemic, the exporters have faced many difficulties in fulfilling export orders. Despite all those challenges, they managed to earn much needed foreign exchange to the country. Therefore, it is quite fitting to pay tribute to Sri Lankan exporters at this junction for their yeoman service to the country.
Q: Is the contribution of exporters appreciated in the context of COVID -19?
A: EDB has identified the significance of the export sector in developing the national economy and recognized the contribution of exporters in the export sector. The export community was able to overcome the difficulties that arose due to the COVID 19 pandemic during the last 2 years and contribute at their best to bring foreign exchange to the country.
Some exporters have diversified their products by supplying the products which create demand with the COVID 19 pandemic such as PPEs, gloves, masks, food preparations, herbal & Ayurvedic products and were able to find new markets as well.
Considering the above, marks were allocated for the EDB to appreciate the extraordinary efforts taken by the exporters to sustain in the business amidst the COVID 19 when evaluating the applications for financial year 2020/21.
Q: What is the message you are giving to exporters?
A: EDB is currently working on several strategic objectives to support existing exporters to bolster their exports, promote new exports from Sri Lanka to transform Sri Lanka’s Export basket, diversify into new markets, capacity building of Sri Lankan exporters and to generate export led foreign investments into the country.
Accordingly, EDB is implementing few financial assistance schemes as mentioned below and I would like to request exporters to get the maximum benefit from those schemes to access the international markets, develop export products and to build Sri Lankan homegrown brands in the international market.
Market Promotion Assistance (MPA) to support exporters’ own marketing efforts 2021-2022
This scheme provides financial assistance to exporters for their own market development activities to promote Sri Lanka’s products on a cost sharing basis.
Financial assistance scheme for the export enterprises of Agriculture and Fisheries products to move up in the value chain to increase exports
Assistance will be granted for the selected Sri Lankan companies engaged in the manufacturing & exports of Agriculture and Fisheries & Aquaculture products to move up in the value chain by introducing high value innovative products. Capacity Building program for SME Exporters to move up the value chain to build brands EDB is implementing a capacity building program to strengthen marketing capabilities to build Brands of selected SMEs in a period of 3 years commencing from year 2021.
New Exporter Development Programme (NEDP)
The EDB supports the local SMEs in every possible manner to become successful exporters.
Export Processing Villages (EPVs)
National Programme to establish 1,000 Export Production Villages (EPVs) within five years in collaboration with relevant stakeholders to enhance rural agriculture and industrial development of the country.
National Export Brands Development Programme to assist Sri Lankan Entrepreneurs
The National Export Brands Development Programme will provide financial assistance to Sri Lankan entrepreneurs to develop and promote homegrown brands in overseas markets.
Scheme to Support Product / Production Process Development Activities of Manufacturing Exporters of Value-Added Industrial Products
Encourage and Facilitate manufacturing exporters of Industrial Products to upgrade/ acquire advanced technology to enhance cost efficiency, productivity and sustainability.