President RW unveils bold strategy to boost agricultural exports

Friday, 24 November 2023 00:00 –      – 480

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President Ranil Wickremesinghe 


  • Declares plan to establish Agro-Technology University at 25th Presidential Export Awards
  • Outlines multi-pronged approach to agricultural development targeting small and large scale farmers
  • Emphasises need for modernised practices, enhancing research capabilities
  • Acknowledges historical setbacks due to land reforms, regrets missed opportunities

President Ranil Wickremesinghe yesterday presented a comprehensive strategy to revise agro export, acknowledging past challenges and missed opportunities.

In a forward-looking speech at the 25th Presidential Export Awards organised by  the Export Development Board (EDB) held at the BMICH he outlined a comprehensive plan to utilise Sri Lanka›s rich agricultural past for a successful future by combining support for smallholders, large-scale agricultural programs and strategic planning for export diversification.

The President’s ambitious plans underscored the importance of modernising agricultural practices and enhancing research capabilities essential for a road map for export-led economic revival and growth.

Acknowledging the past neglect of agriculture due to various constraints, Wickremesinghe emphasised the need to reposition the sector as a key player in the National Export Strategy (NES).

He revealed plans to restructure and modernise existing agricultural research institutes, culminating in the establishment of the Agro-Technology University of Sri Lanka. This institution aims to support extension services and further innovation in the sector.

Reflecting on historical setbacks in the agricultural sector due to land reforms in 1972, Wickremesinghe emphasised their adverse impact on agricultural exports.

The President cited missed opportunities to focus on exports during key periods, such as the 1960s, early 1970s and post-war periods, attributing these lapses to internal conflicts and policy choices.

He expressed regret for not capitalising on the country›s inherent strengths in agriculture that other successful nations like Singapore had recognised.

President Wickremesinghe outlined a multi-pronged approach to agricultural development, targeting  small and large-scale farmers. He stressed the importance of providing financial support for smallholders to embrace agro-technology, aiming to enhance productivity.

Additionally, plans were revealed to grant freehold status to individuals holding land development permits, fostering a sense of ownership and incentivising further development.

In a bid to create opportunities for large-scale agriculture, President Wickremesinghe announced the allocation of previously undeveloped areas, including portions of the Mahaweli scheme and lands owned by Government plantation corporations, for agricultural purposes.

This strategic move is expected to bring approximately 300,000 acres of land under cultivation within the next few years, requiring significant capital investment.

To ensure the success of these initiatives, Wickremesinghe emphasised the need for extension services, collaboration with the private sector and the establishment of an agro-technology university. He outlined plans to review the performance of regional plantation companies and shift towards contract farming in the tea and rubber sectors.

Turning to broader economic challenges, the President acknowledged the country›s lack of growth and opportunities over the past two years.

He attributed these issues to a historical imbalance in the trade and emphasised the need to address the budget deficit and balance of trade, and highlighted the urgency of increasing exports. The President elaborated on steps to improve the country›s fiscal situation and the availability of funds for small and medium industries affected by the economic crisis.

In a global context, President Wickremesinghe acknowledged the challenges posed by international competitors such as China, Vietnam, Thailand and Malaysia in the export-oriented industries. Nevertheless, he stressed the urgency of the current export drive, emphasising the need to secure the country›s future and prevent further brain drain.

The President highlighted the importance of attracting investments, both foreign and domestic, to drive innovation and expand export markets. He announced financial support for small and medium industries, underlining the Government›s commitment to preserving and strengthening the supply chain.

President Wickremesinghe reiterated Sri Lanka›s historical strength as an exporter of agricultural goods. He urged a return to these roots, emphasising the potential for value-added exports in tea, rubber and coconut. He encouraged stakeholders to explore new areas of exports, inviting investments and partnerships to ensure the sustained growth of the country›s export-driven economy.

Wickremesinghe conferred the Presidential Awards to recognise the exceptional contributions of Sri Lankan exporters to the export sector and overall economic advancement. In addition to the awards ceremony, President Ranil Wickremesinghe presided over the launch of the Sri Lanka Export Brand, the online application dedicated to Presidential Export Awards.

The event was attended by Ministers Nimal Siripala de Silva, Bandula Gunawardena, Mahinda Amaraweera, Douglas Devananda, Jeevan Thondaman, State Ministers Dilum Amunugama, Taraka Balasuriya, Kanaka Herath, Aravinda Kumar, Investment Promotion Ministry Secretary M. M. Naimuddeen, EDB Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Dr. Kingsley Barnard, Foreign Ambassadors and other officials.

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