The small and medium enterprises (SMEs), a core sector of Sri Lankan economy creating more than 50 percent of its employment, have their biggest presence in ‘food processing’ sub-sector and Sri Lanka is considering linking its considerable SME base to global markets through the highly active industry sub-sector, Minister of Industry and Commerce Rishad Bathiudeen said.
“There is a great number of micro and SME enterprises active in this industry. In fact we believe that more than 40 percent of our SMEs are in the food processing sector” Minister Bathiudeen said on Tuesday addressing the Pro Food-Pro Pack industry awards event at Kingsbury Hotel in Colombo.
Minister Bathiudeen was joined by visiting industry representatives from India and China as well as President of Sri Lanka Food Processors Association Maliek De Alwis and its Secretary Thusith Wijesinghe.
The evening event also launched the 17th Pro Food-Pro Pack exhibition to be held in 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 my Ministry 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,” he said.
According to the Minister, more than 50 firms from India and China will be taking part at this year’s Pro Food-Pro Pack expo in Colombo.
Minister Bathiudeen called on the industry representatives from India and China taking part in the event to invest in Sri lanka’s food and packaging sectors and partner with them. “Our efforts to develop these sectors are a part of our bigger plan to link the sector to our exports,” 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 and it is also the first lab that is ready to test food products from all Districts of Sri Lanka and using 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 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 million towards food and packaging development projects.
Sri Lanka’s food processing industry employs 1.5 million workforce directly and indirectly and reports around Rs 100 million in its annual domestic production.