The outbreak of coronavirus has prompted the government to impose a temporary ban on all imports except a few essential items.
After considering the situation and appeals of importers, it has issued a new regulation dated July 16, 2020 in a special gazette notification canceling the previous regulation published on May 21, 2020 lifting the prohibition of many other imported products.
The country will be losing Rs. 15 billion as taxes per annum, several local importers said adding that with the present depreciation of the rupee, they are faced with bigger issues as they buy in dollars and sell in Sri Lanka rupees.
At present, this industry provides direct and indirect employment to around 50,000 individuals islandwide with over 2,000 dealers spread across the country.
While local manufacturers hold 50% of the market share, the importers are surviving in the industry with 50% of the market share, they pointed out.
The temporary import prohibition on tiles and sanitaryware imports will have a spilling effect on auxiliary related industries such as warehousing and logistics, clearing and forwarding, banking and finance, construction and commercial real estates.
It will increase under employment among a large number of professionals such as architects, engineers, consultants, quantity surveyors, sub-contractors as well as tile masons and daily wage earners, they warned.
The industry maintains an average warehousing space of 2,000,000 sq ft and approx. 200,000 sq ft of showroom retail space immensely contributing to the real estate sector in the country.
Therefore, restricting imports would adversely impact the income generated for warehouse and showroom owners’ countrywide, they claimed.
In a letter to the head of Presidential Task Force on Economic Revival and Poverty Eradication Basil Rajapakasa, the secretary of Tile and Sanitaryware Importers Association (TSIA), E.S. Bulathsinhala has urged the authorities to grant them approval to import these products under 180 day LCs.
This will immediately prevent the 50 percent shortage of tiles and sanitaryware in the local market and make available quality products at reasonable prices, he added.
Therefore, Sri Lankan tile and sanitaryware importers are calling for the lifting of a temporary ban to help cope with the fallout from the coronavirus outbreak which has disrupted their business outright.