Forex earnings from SL spice trade could exceed $ 1.5 bn annually says minister


By Steve A. Morrell

'The export market for Sri Lankan spices, including cinnamon, pepper and cardamom, is substantially lucrative, but spice growers have not effectively developed available plant stock to ensure the exploitation of the potential of spices. Although Sri Lanka achieved a reputation for its spices, it is disappointing to note that spice growers have not fully realized the potential of these crops. These spices could help generate foreign exchange earnings to the extent of $ 1.5 billion annually, Minister of Primary Industries Daya Gamage said.

He was speaking recently as Chief Guest at the annual general meeting of the Spices and Allied Products Producers’ and Traders Association

(SAPPTA), He said Sri Lanka is home to the best cinnamon in the world.

Cinnamon is exported to 13 countries, particularly Mexico.

‘However I hope you would not continuously depend on the government to improve spice crops and develop new strains of these spices. The government will help you but you must simultaneously help yourselves. We will not stand in your way but as you would agree, we will extend necessary assistance to ensure you develop. The Chairperson of the Export Development Board ( EDB), is here and I am of the opinion that the EDB as well as other organizations you come in contact with would give you the corporation you need to ensure progress, the minister said.

He cautioned that the private sector would need to ensure more dynamism in moving the spice industry. 35 percent plantation lands lying fallow could be utilized for improvement of the spice industry.

Chairman SAPPTA Vernon Abeyratne, holding office for the third consecutive year, said although and extent of about 35,000 hectares were planted with pepper we were lowest among pepper producing countries. He confirmed pepper producers were not using pesticides. Although cultural practices were enforced, plant stock and available planting material was not developed. Resultant prices, which were Rs. 1300 per kilo in January this year has reduced to Rs. 800 currently.

Price reduction was the result of increased production in other countries, particularly, Vietnam.

The solution, he said, was that Sri Lanka should concentrate on niche markets. He requested the minister’s intervention to realize these ambitions.

During the year the government was negotiating Free Trade Agreements with India, China and Singapore. He also said formulation of a National Export Strategy was now essential through the EDB.

Guest of Honour, Head of Corporate Banking, Peoples Bank, Aruni Goonetillake also addressed the audience.

Past President SAPPTA, Zarook, identified the office bearers for the ensuing year.

The vote of thanks was delivered by 2nd Vice President SAPPTA Prins Gunasekera.

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