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Sri Lanka Exports Rebound; Trade Gap Widens as Imports Surge

Sri Lanka’s exports expanded in November, rebounding from the worst decline since 2009 on demand for garments, tea and machinery.

Overseas sales increased 11.6 percent to $879.3 million from a year earlier, after falling 4.9 percent in October, the Central Bank of Sri Lanka said in a statement today. Imports surged 78 percent to $1.98 billion, it said.

The monetary authority left interest rates unchanged on Jan. 11 for a 12th month, seeking to curb quickening inflation while supporting the economy as Europe’s debt crisis restrains global growth. Sri Lanka devalued its rupee by 3 percent in November to aid exports by companies such as Ceylon Tea Services Plc.

Earnings from textiles and garment exports rose 28.5 percent to $347.6 million in November, the central bank said. Agricultural shipments gained 1.1 percent to $184.3 million, while the value of industrial exports rose 35 percent to $684.5 million.

Sri Lanka’s trade deficit widened to $1.1 billion in November, compared with a deficit of $325 million a year earlier, today’s report showed. Imports gained on costlier oil purchases.

Oil and some food imports are putting pressure on Sri Lanka’s rupee, Treasury Secretary P.B. Jayasundera said in Colombo today. The island is facing some balance of payments pressure, Central Bank Governor Ajith Nivard Cabraal said Jan. 3, adding that he sees resilience among exporters.

Exports make up about a fifth of the country’s $50 billion economy. Europe accounts for about 35 percent of the Indian Ocean island’s overseas sales.

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