With Sri Lanka looking for overseas
markets for pepper exports and India trying to restrict pepper
imports from Sri Lanka, the inferior quality of Sri Lankan
pepper has proved to be the bugbear in this respect.
Although Sri Lankan pepper is enriched with beneficial
chemical properties, it loses its inherent goodnessto a good
extent in the processing stages. This impacts adversely in
tapping sophisticated foreign markets for pepper such as
European Union and United States, according to industry experts.
India has been the county’s main pepper buyer for decades.
Under the Indo-Sri Lanka Free Trade Agreement (ISFTA), India was
able to import Sri Lankan pepper tariff-free. As a result much
of Sri Lanka’s pepper ended up in India. It was reported that 98
per cent of total pepper produced in the county was exported to
India in 2005.
However, since November 2006, the Indian Government has been
trying to get Sri Lanka to agree to limited imports of pepper
from Sri Lanka by the introduction of an annual ceiling of 2500
The main reason for this move is that Indian pepper farmers
are averse to Sri Lankan pepper, which is relatively cheap, from
coming into their market and placing their livelihood at risk.
It was reported that Indian domestic pepper consumption was
around 3500 tonnes.The rest of the imports totalling around 7000
tonnes is absorbed by the extraction industry and
export-oriented units for processing and reexporting from India.
"If India implements the restrictions, it is vital to look to
other international markets, but then Sri Lankan pepper should
be at its maximum potential," said Export Agriculture Department
Director Dr. M. Illangasinhe.
He said that tapping other markets will bring in a sizable
foreign exchange earning for the country strengthening the
He added that countries like Vietnam, which has quality human
resources and technology, has tapped the international markets,
our country has been left far behind.
"In Sri Lanka, small and medium pepper holders are the main
pepper suppliers and they do not adopt modern methods to produce
export quality pepper. We have to educate pepper producers
intensively and extensively on modern methods of production if
we are to compete on equal terms with other pepper exporters,"
said Dr. Illangasinghe.
He said the Agricultural Ministry has taken steps to educate
the pepper community village-wise.