Despite complaints by local importers, the Government decided against lifting the import ban on batik and handloom apparel in place until December 2022, The Sunday Morning Business learns.
Speaking to us, State Minister of Batik, Handloom Fabrics, and Local Apparel Products Dayasiri Jayasekara stated that the ban on batik and handloom apparel would prevail for a much longer period, as Sri Lanka was focusing on increasing local production and healthy competition amongst producers in the country.
“Why should we relax the ban? If we do this, the local batik producers will no longer be benefited. Therefore, the ban imposed will not be relaxed, as there is enough batik production available in Sri Lanka for suppliers,” Jayasekara said.
Owing to the Covid-19 pandemic, prices of batik raw materials significantly rose during the past year, as only a specific number of batik producers sell fabrics, chemicals, and dye in Sri Lanka.
Commenting with regard to this, Jayasekara mentioned that the State Ministry scheduled a programme where the dominant producers would meet local manufacturers across Sri Lanka to break the existing monopoly in the industry.
“Only a few bring in raw materials for batik to Sri Lanka. Hence, the prices drastically vary from time to time, depending on the value of the rupee. We plan to break the monopoly when the country is open,” Jayasekara said.
Furthermore, he also mentioned that the quality of batik sold by local manufacturers was dropping, as many businesses had shifted to the batik industry, given the existing high demand amidst the prevailing Covid-19 pandemic.
“The industry boomed within a short period. We are trying our best to control quality. However, the implementation of a regulation is not likely. As such, consumers should check the quality before buying batik from shops,” Jayasekara added.
Meanwhile, addressing the existing problems in the batik industry, an official representing the All Island Batik Designers’ Association stated that there is “fear” in the industry that the demand for batik would collapse soon as a result of the misconception by customers that batik was of low quality.
“Everyone has started batik manufacturing due to the increased demand, but the new businesses are not following the quality standard. Therefore, it is feared that consumers will stop purchasing batik due to the low quality that exists right now. However, we have continuously requested the Government to take an appreciative decision concerning quality management,” the official said.
Explaining the price issue, the official added that prices of chemicals, dye, and fabrics in Sri Lanka were increasing day by day, and that this had to be resolved immediately.
In March, Jayasekara told us that the export target for the batik, handloom, and local apparel industry was $ 6 billion for the year 2021. “In 2020, the industry faced a loss of $ 1.2 billion due to Covid-19, since the exports amounted to $ 5.6 billion in 2019 in comparison to $ 4.4 billion in 2020,” he said.
The Government, in an attempt to encourage local production and reduce foreign exchange outflows, decided to ban batik imports to Sri Lanka last year.