The fruit and vegetable export industry should aim at becoming a billion-dollar industry within the next ten years as there will be a growing and continuous demand in the international market. The export quantum needs to be doubled and it will also increase employment opportunities and growth, said former Secretary to the Treasury Dr. P.B. Jayasundera.
He was addressing the 28th Annual General Meeting of the Lanka Fruit and Vegetable Producers, Processors and Exporters Association in Colombo.
The fruit and vegetable exports earnings for last year were US $ 39.5 million.
The industry needs a Government stimulus package as there is a risk in exporting goods. The setting up of a Cargo Village is important to support industrialists. However, it should not be a dependable industry and should consider the export economy in a broader context. We should target the surplus production and not think merely in terms of self-sufficiency, he said.
We have a future for which a foundation is in place. The war is over and this has opened more land for agriculture, fishing and opportunities for tourism. The world economy is recovering and Sri Lanka has the strength to bounce back. There are plenty of opportunities , he said.
Sri Lanka is an SME economy. The country lacks sources of funding, technology, support base, managerial skills, ownership and operational capabilities. These factors can contribute to economic resilience, he said.
The agricultural sector s contribution to the GDP is 20 percent and successive Governments have implemented local oriented agricultural policies. Over the years we had a policy framework under different themes such as Kethata Aruna, Krushi Navodaya, Api Wawamu Ratha Nagamu and One Crop One Village. These were aimed at developing and supporting the local agricultural sector. The country needs to be directed towards an integrated agricultural policy to derive the maximum benefits. Poverty is not a major challenge any more, he said.
The country has plus points as there is no power crisis and we have a competitive exchange rate. Five Ports will be set up in the near future and this will also increase the number of tourist arrivals. Sri Lanka needs to spread its development without confining it to Colombo. The country has a promising future, he said.