COLOMBO, Sri Lanka — The Sri Lankan government has granted companies with high export business permission to keep manufacturing in the midst of a general COVID-19-induced lockdown, a decision that allows certain rubber-related companies such as Global Rubber Industries (Pvt.) Ltd. to remain open.
This exemption — together with a declaration that the island nation's natural rubber industry is "essential" to the country's economy — means selected tire producers are able to keep operating, according to GRI, which claims it's been ahead of other companies in the industry with "proactive and far-sighted" policies.
By developing a COVID-19 operating procedure "well above" that required by the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Sri Lankan government, along with worker training, GRI was able to instill a "strong sense of responsibility with each employee," Mahesha Ranasoma, CEO of GRI, said.
GRI makes agricultural and materials-handling tires at two plants in Sri Lanka, including one dedicated to radials in Badalgama, in western Sri Lanka, that opened in 2018.
Gary Stevens, president of sales for material handling tires in the U.S., said he is grateful the GRI management team and factory employees in Sri Lanka "had the courage and commitment, amidst this COVID-19 uncertainty to report to work and build tires for our dedicated dealer network in all of North America.
"GRI has built a strong foundation and a high reputation over 17 years in the U.S., and continue to do everything we can for our customers.”
The headquarters of GRI's Material Handling business is located in Atlanta, with warehouses and service points in Indianapolis, Cincinnati, Lexington, Ky., and Birmingham, Ala.
In a statement, GRI Managing Director Praphash Subasinghe stressed that the company's tires are essential to the food, agriculture and logistics industries.
"GRI is privileged to have this pivotal role in the world's food supply chain," he said, "and are committed rise up to the needs of our customers, our country and our world."
There are at least six other tire makers of note in Sri Lanka, but their status under these operating conditions is unknown.