Sri Lanka starts first market oriented support for $9.5M wood sector
As demand for wood and furniture grows in Sri Lanka with tourism growth and the country is faced with an increasing shortage of skilled woodcrafters, Sri Lanka is moving to upgrade its $ 9.5 Mn wood and furniture industry with latest technology and machinery training.
“It is time that we start upgrading the wood and furniture industry workforce. We believe that our support will help create more and more skilled wood crafters who can cater to surging market needs powered by tourism” announced Rishad Bathiudeen, Minister of Industry and Commerce on 26 November.
Minister Bathiudeen was addressing a batch of 12 wood workers and crafters selected to undergo training on modern wood crafting at the Apprenticeship Training Institute (ATI), Moratuwa financed by the Ministry of Industry and Commerce. This is the first ever initiative by the Industry Ministry to upgrade Sri Lanka’s woodcraft skill-base.
Though Sri Lanka’s sawn wood consumption is comparatively less than Malaysia and Thailand, wood and wood based industry in Sri Lanka has been on an average growth trend exceeding 3% in the last five years. The wood and wood based industry which stood at Rs 1026 Mn in 2006 has grown to Rs 1246 Mn ($ 9.5 Mn) rising by 4% in 2011 alone, compared to 2010. Almost 95% of the industry consists of private sector ownership providing close to 50000 jobs.
The industry is mostly concentrated in Moratuwa area where ATI is also located. It is estimated that production and sales of furniture and processed wood in Moratuwa area to be around Rs 2 Mn ($ 15300) per day. ATI, founded in 1981, is known for provision of employable vocational training to youth in electrical, electronics, construction, metal, wood work and printing industries. Many private sector firms in these sectors hire ATI qualified personnel directly from the institute to fill their positions. According to ATI officials, in its wood work division, trainees learn wood technology, technical mathematics and the principles of technical drawing as applied theory; practical skills taught include basic woodworking processes, metalwork, furniture making, joinery and carpentry. Most Sri Lankan timber mills have aged machinery joined by manual wood workers.
“The demand for wood based products is rising steadily with the opening of new tourist hotels and facilities, apart from the growing domestic consumption. There is a lack of skilled personnel in this sector” Minister Bathiudeen said. “Please utilize our support fully and learn the latest techniques and machinery handling. Also enlist your other woodcraft colleagues for our training support, which we are now ready to provide” Minister Bathiudeen added.
Epa Dayaratne, Wood & Furniture Sector Director of the Ministry, addressing the event said:
“The special woodcrafter training session also parallels industrial training by the Ministry aimed at forthcoming Deyata Kirula national exhibition. This initiative will also help in supporting Sri Lanka’s rural sector self-employment.” Woodcrafters from Polonnaruwa, selected for the training session revealed that they earn more than $ 650 per month alone just by making their wood-crafting skills available to needed households. “We can earn more if we have access to timber supply for which there are many restrictions that wood workers like us are faced with –for example licencing. Also the starting price of Rs 450 per cubic feet of wood, supplied by the government department is too high for us” they revealed.
- Asian Tribune -