Sri Lanka’s Government Pushing to Increase its Footwear Industry

Sri Lanka’s Government Pushing to Increase its Footwear Industry

by Ishara Mudugamuwa

The Industrial Development Board (IDB) of Sri Lanka has taken measures to develop the country’s Leather and Footwear Industry to cut down on leather and footwear imports, IDB Chairman Udaya Kariyawasam said.

Addressing the media yesterday at the Information Department, the chairman said the government has identified the leather and footwear industry as a thrust industry. So it is important to increase the leather and footwear production and at the same time it is important to promote leather products among Sri Lankans. The IBD has recognized some important areas which should be developed to compete with the international market.

“At present the industry produces 75 percent of all shoes sold in the island. About 95 percent of the local shoes are made from non-leather (synthetic) materials or rubber. The remaining 25 percent of shoes sold in Sri Lanka are imported. This amounts to circa 10 million pairs per year. These are also made from non-leather (synthetic) materials. It is reasonable to assume the local companies will continue to try to seize some of that market, which offers low priced footwear at very competitive rates. These shoes are made from synthetic materials (non-leather) and therefore they offer no benefit for the prosperity of the leather manufacturing industry,” Kariyawasam said.

He also said that the industry suffers from five major problems, which limit its ability to compete. Poor and insufficient leather, poor supply base for most material and components which are unsuitable for exported products, inadequate provision of training for operator and technical skills, poor mechanization and practices in production, no marketing strategy or brand identity for the industry.

“If the industry can open the export markets for leather footwear, it will target the overarching objective of this project which is to increase export earning and therefore will be more beneficial to the expansion of the industry, its employment levels and the country’ s trade balance,” he said.

IDB Director A. G. Karunadasa said leather products are environment-friendly and also using leather shoes is good for the health and has other advantages. He also said the IDB has already discussed with the University of Moratuwa and Colombo University Faculty of Fine Arts to develop the country’s leather industry using modern technology and designs. The lack of skilled labour is a major problem in the leather industry. Therefore the IDB in association with the Tertiary and Vocational Education Commission has already introduced NVQ for those engaged in the industry.