Sri Lanka's apex export entity – EDB, yesterday claimed that some non-registered exporters with no knowledge of procedures have brought a bad reputation for Sri Lanka.
EDB pointed out that, the European Commission Director General of Health and Consumers had recently informed the National Plant Quarantine Services of Sri Lanka that some consignments of fresh fruits and vegetables (only) exported to EU and Switzerland were contaminated with pests, and that of 350 fresh fruits and vegetables (only) consignments that entered the EU from 2011 to date, 292 were contaminated with pests.
EDB Director General, Sujatha Weerakoon, said yesterday that the EDB has issued a clarion call to the country's exporter community to register with it and enlist in its surging database.
She said, of 295 consignments 290 were contaminated. None of the exporters of contaminated consignments were registered with the EDB. These few non-registered exporters, unaware of procedures, have brought a bad reputation for Sri Lanka.
Thus she pointed out that, it is time all Lankan exporters register with EDB.
From 1 August 1985, any and all exporters in Sri Lanka should register with EDB, as per gazetted regulations, in that, anyone exporting any article of commercial value from Sri Lanka on or after 1 August 1985, should register with the EDB. This registration is free of charge and is not a hindrance to the exporter, but rather, brings some benefits to the exporters where it could build a rapport with the topmost export body the EDB. They can enter EDB's database, and from time to time, they could receive relevant export information," she added.
Weerakoon made these remarks addressing a session on 'How to export quality fruit & vegetable to the EU Region,' organized by EDB with the assistance of the National Plant Quarantine Service, Department of Agriculture and the Department of Commerce held at EDB yesterday.
She said during their recent meeting with the Treasury facilitated by EDB, Sri Lanka's committed fruits and vegetable exporters came forward to contribute to make the sector a half-a-billion dollar industry in the future. Also what they were looking forward from the government was mostly policy direction and shaping, rather than funding support for them.
Moreover she said, most fruits and vegetable exporters are SME oriented and down the value chain, there is a significant contribution by them to our employment and farmer society and clusters, having a direct connection to our economy. "Now you can see that despite low export values, how important this sector is."
As per Customs Department data, 3,650 exporters of all scales were active in 2013 which included both EDB registered and non-registered exporters. As of 2014 July, 3,170 such active Lankan exporters have been reported, both EDB registered and non-registered. Interestingly, EDB statistics indicate that 227,853 companies, individuals, and SMEs have been registered with the EDB as exporters since 1 August 1985, getting into active exports at one time or another. Therefore, the overall exporters since 1985 August (both EDB registered and non-registered) could be much higher.
Champika Hewage OIC - Plant Quarantine Station Sea Port, Colombo who made an extensive and in-depth presentation on quarantine procedures adopted in Sri Lanka for fruits and vegetables, pledged to the exporters that when they export these products to markets such as EU, showing exports standards alone may not be enough – sometimes they even need to show that they have followed good agricultural practices. Based on the type of export products, the agency was in a position to help and teach them the necessary steps.
Around 65% of Sri Lanka's fruits and vegetable exports head to the Maldives and the Middle East. In 2013, Sri Lanka exported US$19.69 million of vegetables and US$ 40.82 million of fruits across the world. Fruit exports alone jumped by 118% from 2012 onwards to US$ 19 million. Vegetable exports too increased from US$15.06 million in 2012 to US$ 19.69 in 2013. Despite the low export volumes, both are critical for the Sri Lankan economy due to the social and livelihood importance of them in the SME value chain.
Among the representatives present at yesterday's session were from Aitken Spence Exports, Jagro, Eastern and Allied Agencies, Aloy Expo Ltd., Nidro Supply Ltd., Ceylon Chamber of Commerce, CR Exports, Ellawala Horticulture, Kingsfood, and HNB.
Representatives from Plant Quarantine Station (Sea Port, Colombo), the Department of Commerce also made detailed presentations to the exporters joined by Darshana Perera (Deputy Director – EDB).