Sri Lanka mulls globalising of SMEs via highly-active food sector

Ma’s Tropical Food Processing Manager Sarah De Alwis receives the top award for ‘All Food and Beverages’ from Minister of Industry and Commerce Rishad Bathiudeen at the Pro Food-Pro Pack awards on 27 February – Pic by Gitika Talukdav

Sri Lanka is mulling linking its considerable SME base to global markets through a highly-active industry sub-sector. SMEs, a core sector of the Sri Lankan economy creating more than 50% of employment, have their biggest presence in the ‘food processing’ sub-sector.

“There is a great number of micro and SME enterprises active in this industry. In fact we believe that more than 40% of our SMEs are in the food processing sector,” said Minister of Industry and Commerce Rishad Bathiudeen on 27 February, addressing the Pro Food-Pro Pack industry awards event at The Kingsbury.

Present at the event were visiting industry representatives from India and China as well as Sri Lanka Food Processors Association President Maliek De Alwis and its Secretary Thusith Wijesinghe. The evening event also launched the 17th Pro Food-Pro Pack exhibition to be held this August. Launched by the Ministry of Industry and Commerce in 2001, this series has become one of the largest food, beverages, packaging and agri-business events in South Asia.

“This expo series is only one of the initiatives by the Ministry of Industry and Commerce to help the processed food and packaging sector. Since the launch of this series in 2001 there has been much progress in the processed food sector by way of improvements in technology, packaging, product development, and marketing. I am given to understand that more than 50 firms from India and China shall be taking part at this August’s Pro Food-Pro Pack expo in Colombo. I call on the industry representatives from India and China taking part at this evening to invest in our food and packaging sectors and partner with our sectors. Our efforts to develop these sectors are a part of our bigger plan to link them sector to our exports,” said Minister Bathiudeen.

He added: “The Ministry of Industry and Commerce has launched many projects for these sectors. The most important is the setting up of Sri Lanka’s first Accredited Food Laboratory for SMEs by the Industrial Development Board. This is the first such facility for the SME food sector of Sri Lanka. This lab is also the first lab that is ready to test food products from all districts of Sri Lanka and will use both local and international standards such as SLS and ISO. Small-scale food makers in Sri Lanka is a sub sector that needs support. We are continuing the ‘Industrial Productivity Market Competitiveness and Sustainability Improvement Program’ for the sixth year. So far 100 companies have benefitted in Good Manufacturing Practices (GMP) and ISO 14000 certifications under this program. We are also continuing the ‘Developing Small-Scale Food Industries by Improving Processing Technology’ project for them to give access to technology. We have decided to expand this as an island-wide project. Especially the SME and micro food producers need support in packaging. Our project ‘Facilitation of SMIs in Food Sector through Packaging’ helps them to upgrade promotions and marketing. Our research has shown that MSMEs need support to enhance their packaging and marketing. This project will also take place in all districts and five companies from each district will be selected.”

In 2017 and 2018, the ministry has invested Rs. 240 m towards food and packaging development projects.

Sri Lanka’s food processing industry employs a workforce of 1.5 million directly and indirectly and reports around Rs. 100 million in its annual domestic production.

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