Batik State Ministry to break existing monopoly

By Yakuta Dawood

Owing to the Covid-19 pandemic, prices of batik raw materials have significantly risen as only a specific number of batik producers sell fabrics, chemicals, and dye in Sri Lanka. Hence, to curtail this ongoing price instability, new measures are to be implemented once Sri Lanka is back to normalcy, The Sunday Morning Business learns.

Speaking to us, State Minister of Batik, Handloom, and Local Apparel Products Dayasiri Jayasekara stated that the State Ministry is to reschedule the programme where the dominant producers will meet local manufacturers across Sri Lanka to break the existing monopoly in the industry.

“Only a few bring in raw materials of batik to Sri Lanka; hence, the prices drastically vary from time to time due to the rupee depreciation. Our plan is to break the monopoly when the country is open,” Jayasekara said.

Addressing another problem, Jayasekara stated that the quality of batik sold by local manufacturers is also reducing as many people have now 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 assurance. However, an implementation of a regulation is not likely possible. So, consumers should check the quality before buying batik from shops,” he 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 will collapse in the near future due to the consumer misconception of low-quality batik.

“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 with regard to quality management,” the official said.

Explaining the price issue, the official added that prices of chemicals, dye, and fabrics in Sri Lanka are increasing day by day, which has to be immediately resolved if the industry is to operate in the near future.

Meanwhile, Minister Jayasekara in March told us that the export target for the batik, handloom, and local apparel industry is $ 6 billion in 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 save foreign exchange outflows, recently decided to ban batik imports to Sri Lanka.

The industry is set to establish an innovation and research and development centre on textile and design due to the lack of quality raw material for batik and handlooms. In addition, concessionary loans, in co-ordination with the Central Bank of Sri Lanka and through public and private banks, are to be arranged in an attempt to support entrepreneurs on initial capital and working capital needs.