Sri Lankan exporters are hopeful of a moderate growth for their businesses and economic recovery over the next 12 months despite the growing number of COVID-19 cases, a survey from the Economic Intelligence Unit (EIU) of the Ceylon Chamber of Commerce said yesterday.

The findings of the three-week survey that began in mid-September were outlined in the latest Business Survey on Trade and Labour Market Impacts of COVID-19 on Sri Lankan Exporters.

The survey was designed and conducted by the Ceylon Chamber of Commerce (CCC) Economic Intelligence Unit (EIU) and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) supported Partnership for Accelerating Results in Trade, National Expenditure and Revenue (PARTNER) project. This is the second assessment of the impact of COVID-19 on Sri Lankan exporters.

The first business survey was conducted in May and captured insights from the lockdown period. The perceived outlook for export business and the economy in May was an expectation of a ‘severe or moderate contraction’.

The survey was conducted over three weeks, starting from 13 August. It provides insights on how export firms are confronting and overcoming challenges, following the reopening of the economy since May.

The survey covered 39 export segments (including both export of goods and services) and had an almost even split of responses from large firms and small and medium enterprises (SMEs). The survey also captured insights from firms led or owned by women. Responses came primarily from senior-level executives, providing strategic insights on the trade and labour market impacts of COVID-19.

As 49% of the survey participants in the latest survey took part in the May survey, this information provides scope for comparison from the point of view of these firms.

Operations heading back to normal: In addition to the improvement in outlook in the current survey, it was noted that business operations are heading back to pre-COVID-19 levels; 53% of the firms have gone back to normal working operations while 64% of the firms reported that they are at over 60% of their operational capacity. However, about 38% of firms reported that they are in partial operation.

New market opportunities fall in latest survey: The optimism related to finding new market opportunities has fallen from 63% in the last survey to 49% in the current survey. The decline in opportunities would indicate that some of the early opportunities that arose as a result of COVID-19 may not have emerged as planned. Firms are, however, meeting the challenges due to the pandemic with new products and or services.