- Merchandise shipments gain by 62.4% to $ 1.07 b, highest since September 2020
- Performance in 1Q up 11.5% to $ 2.6 b
- Apparel, tea, rubber-based products, coconut-based products, spices, electrical and electronic components do well in Q1
- US remains single largest export destination with $ 715.4 m exports in Q1 and in March
- Exports to China and Netherlands increase significantly in March
- Estimated service exports increased by 20.27% to $ 1.1 in Q1
Attesting to resilience despite the COVID-19 impact, merchandise exports in March have crossed the $ 1 billion mark, an achievement last enjoyed in September last year.
The strong performance in March (up 62.4% year-on-year) helped to boost merchandise exports earnings in the first quarter by 11.51% to $ 2.6 billion. “Sri Lanka’s exports show a remarkable rise despite the current pandemic situation across the world,” Export Development Board (EDB) Chairman Suresh De Mel said.
The EDB is forecasting a performance of $ 15.68 billion in merchandise and service shipments in 2021. EDB in 2021 expects $ 12 billion from merchandise exports and $ 3.58 billion from services exports.
In 2020, merchandise exports were $ 10 billion, down 16% from 2019. Overall exports and earnings from merchandise exports recovered to a great extent in December 2020 from the setback suffered in the previous two months due to the second wave of COVID-19.
Earnings from the export of major sectors such as apparel, tea, rubber-based products, coconut-based products, spices and electrical and electronic components, improved in March as well as during the first quarter compared to 2020.
Apparel export earnings in March increased by 49.10% to $ 465 million, whilst first quarter growth was up 6.19% to $ 1.3 billion compared to $ 1.2 billion recorded in the same period a year earlier.
Earnings from tea which consists 12% of total exports increased by 99.33% YoY to $ 125 million, whilst the export volume increased by 86.69% in March compared to the same period last year. First quarter tea exports also increased by 25.2% to $ 338 million compared to $ 270 million in the same period a year earlier. It is believed that the improved performance is due to the demand growth in UAE, China and Libyan markets.
Export earnings from spices and essential oils in March increased significantly by 197% to $ 39 million compared to $ 13 million a year earlier. The growth was mainly due to the improved exports of cinnamon (1425.9%), pepper (140.58%) and cloves (226%). Spices and essential oils also showed a significant increase in the first quarter by 122.37% compared to the same period in 2020.
Earnings from all the major categories of coconut-based products also increased by 109.57% to $ 80.14 million in March compared to the same period a year earlier. Similarly, earnings from the export of all the major categories of coconut-based products increased by 42.18% to $ 195 million in the first quarter compared to the same period a year earlier. The improved performance was seen in exports of coconut oil, liquid coconut milk, cocopeat and activated carbon.
Rubber and rubber-finished products earnings also increased by 80.45 % YoY to $ 35.06 million in March as a result of industrial and surgical gloves of rubber (160.09%) and pneumatic retreated rubber tyres and tubes (58.99%) exports. First quarter export earnings from rubber and rubber-finished products also increased by 32.06% compared to the first quarter of 2020.
Earnings from export of electrical and electronic components (EEC) increased by 83.09% to $ 37.9 million in March compared to the same period last year. First quarter earnings from EEC also increased by 24.51% to $ 102.04 million compared to the first quarter of 2020.
Being the largest single export destination during the first quarter as well as in March, the US has absorbed $ 715.4 million worth of exports in the first quarter of 2021, showing a marginal increase of 0.94 % in comparison to $ 708.76 million recorded in the same period a year earlier.
Exports to China and Netherlands increased YoY by about 150% in March, whilst the quarterly increase of the same markets improved by 62% and 69.84% respectively. Strong performance made by apparel and liquid coconut milk exports has resulted in increased exports to the Netherlands and better performance of export of bulk tea, mineral sands, activated carbon and cocopeat has resulted in increased exports to China.
However, exports to the United Kingdom recorded a decrease of 5.39% to $ 225.9 million in the first quarter compared to the corresponding period of last year.
Exports to all other regions increased, except ASEAN during the first quarter, compared to the same period in 2020.
The services exports estimated by EDB which includes ICT/BPM, construction, financial services and transport and logistics show exports of $ 1.1 billion for the first quarter compared to $ 993 million recorded in the corresponding period of 2020. Estimated service exports increased by 20.27% in the first quarter compared to the first quarter of 2020.