Minister of Industry and Commerce Rishad Bathiudeen (right) and Minister of International Trade and Strategic Development Malik Samarawickrama (left) assess props on display at Ransalu National Handloom Expo at BMICH

Sri Lanka is enlisting its surging tourism and provincial cottage infrastructure to transform its struggling handloom produce to global markets. And the national blueprint for this transformation is now ready.

“Sri Lanka’s handloom industry formally had 200,000 people  but today this has fallen to 10000” declared Minister of Industry and Commerce Rishad Bathiudeen last week. Bathiudeen was addressing launch event of national handloom exhibition Ransalu at the BMICH. Joining Minister Bathiudeen was Minister of International Trade and Strategic Development Malik Samarawickrama.

Though Lankan handloom industry personnel strength today is only 10,000, the historic sector had 200,000 previously. The cottage level industry produces export quality designs and material. A great number of producers are of small and micro level.  The leading province in handloom production is the Western Province followed by the Eastern province and the Central province.

To develop this sector back to its former levels, my Ministry has set up a Handlooms Industry Taskforce which is focusing on tourism as well. Our tourism sector opens new doors to this industry,” said Bathiudeen, and added: “Tourist arrivals are increasing and we are expecting more than three million tourists by 2020. The government has formulated new infrastructure development plans for tourism. My Ministry’s Textile Department, National Design Centre, National Crafts Council with Moratuwa University are formulating new plan involving provincial level handlooms to link them to surging tourism so that in the next three years, this industry is expected to grow up to 50,000 personnel from the present 10,000. I also cleared purchase payment backlogs of Laksala shops under this Ministry and Laksala is now ready purchase your handlooms without any payment delays.”

Sri Lanka Handicrafts Board popularly known as “Laksala” under Ministry of Industry and Commerce promotes the sale of local handicrafts, gift and souvenirs through their showrooms island–wide and provides essential market linkages to traditional craftsmen. As of Jan-September 2016 Laksala revenues totalled Rs 711 mn (against Rs 696 mn in Jan-Sept 2015).