Apex body for Sri Lankan food processing sector mooted

Daily Finance Times

03/04/2014

Apex body for Sri Lankan food processing sector mooted

A  Sri Lankan delegation comprising officials from the Government, academia and private sector gained valuable insights in food processing, standards, food safety, product diversification and export potentials during the recently-concluded study visit to Thailand.

The delegation discussed extensively on the lesions that could be learned and possible way forward for the Sri Lankan food processing industry, the role of different stakeholders of the SME in food and beverage sector of Thailand and studied the current status and success factors of Thailand’s fruit and vegetables industry and export market.

The study tour facilitated by GIZ-SME Development Program provided an opportunity to the participants to visit some of the leading food processing facilities in Thailand, including testing laboratories and organic food processors’ and exporters.

The delegation also met representatives from National Innovation Agency, National Bureau of Agricultural Commodity and Food Standards to discuss on possible adaptation methodologies and new international standards that contributed towards opening of new doors for businesses in the food processing in Thailand and subsequent growth.

One of the participants, Mala Tennakoon, Senior Deputy Director of Sri Lanka Standards Institution (SLSI), sharing some of the key points of learnt during the study visit, said that the Thai Government and all other private sector stakeholders are working towards a common goal of making Thailand the ‘Kitchen of the World,’ which is a concept introduced by the Thai Government.

Thailand has established a National Food Committee under the Thailand National Food Committee Act of 2008.This Committee acts as an apex body which coordinates the activities of 11 Ministries and 30 other National Agencies involved in Food control management activities.

In order to strengthen the food control system implemented, it mainly focuses on four strategic areas namely food safety, food security, food quality and food education. She stressed on the fact that similar structure would be implemented in Sri Lanka as well to facilitate good coordination among the different organisations involved in food control monitoring activities.

From a standards perspective, she also mentioned that certifications like THAI GAP (Good Agricultural Practices) can be initiated by SLSI, as this will help immensely to increase the agricultural exports.

Tennakoon also observed that the research activities within the Thailand food sector is commercially driven with the objective of providing better solutions to food sector businesses and initiatives have been taken to commercialise research findings, with the help of National Innovation Agency.

Dr. Ilmi Hewajulige, Director of the Industrial Technology Institute (ITI) – Food Technology Section said that the ITI equivalent in Thailand, Thailand Institute of Scientific and Technological Research (TISTR) plays a significant role in conducting research and development, transfer technology; as well as to design food production process, process prototype, and equipment prototype which are used for processing agricultural products into health food, export food and supplementary food.

“In order to facilitate innovation, technical support is provided during initial stage of project development after case-by-case evaluation and 75% of total expenses up to Rs. 20 million for maximum three years as project financing,” said Dr. Ilmi.

Representing the private sector, Secretary of the Sri Lanka Food Processors Association (SLFPA) Mervin Gonawela said this study visit provided a valuable opportunity to benchmark a world class parallel association in Thailand, National Food Institute. As an institution working closely with the food processors in Sri Lanka, SLFPA believes it can draw valuable experiences through future collaborations to facilitate the development of the food sector through empowerment and knowledge transfer and by doing so upgrade its capacity to match to standards set by NFI.

The Sri Lankan delegation comprised participants from Industrial Technology Institute (ITI), Sri Lanka Standards Institution (SLSI) , Sri Lanka Export Development Board (EDB), Ministry of Traditional Industries and Small Enterprise Development, Ministry of Finance and Planning, Batticaloa District Chamber of Commerce, Industry and Agriculture, Department of Rural Industries, Eastern Province, Sri Lanka Food Processors Association (SLFPA), Uwa Wellassa University of Sri Lanka, Eastern University of Sri Lanka, University of Jaffna and  sister project of SME Development, the Vocational Training – North.

The Sri Lanka Food Processors Association recently signed an agreement with GIZ-SME Development, to facilitate training and capacity building of the SME in the food processing industry in Sri Lanka. This joint program will introduce innovative approaches and good manufacturing practices to enhance the quality and safety of food processing sector as a whole. Development and translation of the training material, with international good practices and training of the local trainer pool is within this framework. Through  the above capacity building initiatives, the SME engaged in the food processing sector and their employees  will have access to well developed, internationally recognised certificate courses in the areas of  thermal processing, food safety standards (HACCP), hygiene (sanitation and GMPs), cool chain management and operations, post-harvest activities, proper packaging techniques, risk management in production, and finance related topics.

Through the Sri Lankan-German SME Development Program, implemented in cooperation with the Ministry of Finance and Planning, GIZ aims to support a cohesive policy framework that enables SME to grow in an inclusive and eco-friendly manner, enhance competitiveness of SME due to technology transfer and innovation, improve access to finance for SME, and enable SME to take advantage of green technologies and maintain nature’s capital for sustainable growth.