Sri Lanka Manufacturing and Services sectors expand in March 2021


Sri Lanka’s manufacturing activities recorded a nine-month high in March 2021 while the services sector maintained its growth momentum for the fourth consecutive month, the Central Bank said on Thursday, April 15, in its Purchasing Managers’ Index (PMI) report for the month.

Indicating a strong revival in manufacturing activities in the country, the manufacturing PMI reached a 9-month high at 67.0 in March 2021 while the Services PMI rose to 62.1 indicating an expansion of the services sector for the fourth straight month.

The increase in Manufacturing PMI was largely attributable to the increases observed in Production, New Orders, and Stock of Purchases sub-indices.

The significant increases in New Orders and Production sub-indices, particularly in the manufacture of food & beverages and textile & wearing apparel sectors, have mainly contributed to the improvement in the overall index.

Many respondents in the manufacture of food & beverages sector highlighted that they experienced higher levels of sales and production during March 2021 ahead of the New Year festival season.

Further, respondents from the textile & wearing apparel sector mentioned that they increased production during the month to cover-up seasonal holidays.

Meanwhile, the Stock of Purchases sub-index increased in line with the expansion in New Orders and Production. Employment sub-index also expanded at a higher rate.

The Suppliers’ Delivery Time sub-index lengthened at a slower pace during the month. Many respondents highlighted that some easing in suppliers’ delivery time was experienced with the gradual resolvement in shipping related issues. However, freight rates remain at elevated levels, increasing the cost of raw materials, which in turn adversely affected their profit margins.

Manufacturing activities in the next three months are expected to remain at improved levels anticipating a further improvement in economic activities within the country as well as in major export markets.

The increase in Services PMI was underpinned by the expansions observed in new businesses, business activities, employment and expectations for activity.

New businesses in the services sector increased in March 2021, particularly with the improvements observed in financial services, other personal services, and wholesale and retail trade sub-sectors.

For the fourth straight month, the business activities in the services sector increased in March 2021 with increases observed almost across all sub-sectors.

Mainly, financial services sub-sector recorded a further improvement during the month in line with the progresses in economic activities. With the festive season, wholesale and retail trade, and transportation sub-sectors also expanded further.

Moreover, other personal services sub-sector also experienced an increase in March 2021.

Meanwhile, education sub-sector continued to expand amid the increased demand for higher education following G.C.E. Ordinary and Advanced Level examinations.

Employment increased in March 2021 for the first time after declining for 13 consecutive months due to new recruitments amidst growing business activities.

Backlogs of work decreased in March 2021 for the second month in row in line with the increase in staffing levels, which were previously at a low level due to COVID-19 related health concerns.

Expectations on business activities for the next three months increased further in March 2021 underpinned by the optimistic expectations on growth prospects amidst Sinhala and Tamil New Year and Ramadan festive seasons.