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Sri Lanka emerging as a cost-effective footwear manufacturer in the region

A footwear and leather fair with foreign participation is scheduled to be held in Colombo from 10-12 February, 2012, with a view to showcasing Sri Lanka as a regional hub for the footwear sector. Leading Asian footwear manufactures’ are expected to attend this annual exhibition.

Industry sources say although Sri Lanka’s consumer footwear market is not huge, like for instance in India, there is an emerging local demand for designer footwear, which could be considered as a niche market that the Indian and Chinese sellers in particular can exploit.

According to the Chairman of the Leather Footwear Advisory Council, Ranjith Hettiarachchi, Sri Lanka is considered a place with healthy labour relations, which is one of the main contributory factors towards making Sri Lanka a footwear industry hub in the region.

Some raw material for the footwear industry is imported from Chennia, and following tax concession granted by the government at the previous budget, the industry is expected to record a healthy growth in the coming years.

Presently the industry provides direct and indirect employment to around 20,000 people. There are 10 large footwear manufacturing companies and 30 medium scale ones, in addition to about 3,000 small scale manufacturers.

Popular export items are canvass and rubber boots, thongs, sports shoes, leather shoes etc, produced using a variety of raw material and state-of-the-art technology.

According to industry sources, competitive pricing, skilled workmanship, educated and highly trainable workforce, availability of natural resources and modern production methods, coupled with an excellent compliance record and strategic location have all contributed to Sri Lanka emerging as a cost effective footwear manufacturing location in Asia.

The present export capacity is approximately 20-30 million pairs per annum, with the export capacity of rubber slippers alone being over 30mn per annum. The availability of high quality natural rubber including sole crepe is a key advantage for the footwear and leather industry. Some factories produce only moulded rubber soles and some have facilities to produce unit soles of rubber PVC TPR and PU. The industry also has easy access to other varieties of raw material both from local and foreign sources.

The major markets for Sri Lankan footwear are the European Union and the US. Sri Lanka has already established itself as a supplier of fashion footwear to leading international brands, such as, Mark & Spencer, Clarks Bentton, Palladium Aerosoles, Geox, Dexter H HBrowns, Bata France, etc.

As far as the leather industry is concerned, in addition to the manufacture of processed leather, several other products including leather garments, travel goods, gloves, wallets, belts, key tags etc are also produced both for the local and international markets.

Sri Lanka has about five large scale companies and around 1,000 small units involved in the manufacture of leather goods, with around 11 tanneries producing approx. 25 tons of leather per day. Most of the large companies have their own tanneries.

The major export markets for Sri Lanka’s leather goods are the European Union, USA and Australia and is a supplier of famous brands like Playboy , Laurel and Helen Kaminiski.

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