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JAAF formulates 5 point framework to coordinate challenges

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The five points are: Ensure a safe working environment for employees, enhance backward integration, high-level collaboration with the authorities on retaining and improving export market access, Position Sri Lanka’s apparel industry globally for the future, and develop the competitiveness of the Small and Medium Enterprise (SME) players in the sector.

“At this crucial juncture, the entire industry must collaborate if we are to effectively address challenges stemming from the pandemic and create conducive conditions for long-term growth of the sector,” JAAF Secretary General, Tuli Cooray said. “Thisfive-point plan is a framework which all industry stakeholders can use to collaborate in achieving our shared vision for Sri Lanka.”

Action on the plan’s first priority – worker safety – has already been initiated, with an accelerated vaccination programme. As of August, 90 per cent of the workforce has received first doses, and up to 50 per cent of workers have received their second doses.

Swift progress is being made to complete vaccinating the entire workforce by the end of September 2021. Further, JAAF will continue to engage with local health authorities to ensure the industry keeps its high vaccination rate up. Next, families of staff need to be vaccinated to ensure the continued safety and well-being of the communities.

As per the guidance provided by the Board of Investment (BOI) and the Ministries of Health and Labour, besides vaccination, JAAF members have put in place the required infrastructure and safety protocols to be followed strictly to restore production while minimising the risks of future outbreaks.

In enhancing backward integration, the Eravur Fabric Processing Park will be a key development. It will aid in increasing the sector’s local value addition from the current 52 to 65%, a significant increase. JAAF will partner with the government to ensure the continuation of GSP+ by the EU; this is particularly necessary when the industry faces significant challenges in the post-pandemic world.

JAAF will also work to ensure continued benefits for its members from the United Kingdom’s GSP scheme, for which it will engage with Sri Lanka’s Department of Commerce (DoC) and the UK Trade and Investment (UKTI) authority and will continue to seek permission for members to use fabric originating in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) countries for both EU and UK GSP+, which will improve supply chain flexibility.

JAAF will also engage with the government on improving market access for apparel exports through bilateral trade agreements with the UK and the proposed FTA with China. Further, JAAF will work towards positioning Sri Lanka as the hub for global apparel manufacturing operations.

In positioning Sri Lanka’s apparel sector globally for the future, especially as a premium apparel exporter, the industry will look to go beyond the success of its ‘Garments without Guilt’ initiative. Emphasis will be placed on excellence in sustainable and ethical manufacturing, aspiring to become the standard by which other countries are measured. JAAF will also work towards supporting sustainable growth in Sri Lanka’s apparel sector by adopting a series of coordinated measures to strengthen the SMEs in the industry.

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