Exhibition provides meeting for agro food players
As the threat of a global food crisis hangs over the world, the role played by the processed food industry is becoming vital. “We as a nation, if we are not secure with the food situation, we may be doomed. There’s a lot that the food processing and packaging industries can do about food security,” said Dhammika Gunesekera, President of the Sri Lanka Food Processors Association, speaking at the media launch of the Agbiz/Pro food Pro Pack exhibition that is to be held on August 22-24 at the Sirimavo Bandaranaike Convention Centre, under the theme “Global ways, local taste”.
The exhibition which started in 2002 is a meeting place for those involved in the processed food and packaging sector both foreign and local. The suppliers, buyers and importers who will be coming will get the chance to interact with each other as well as portray the industry’s commitment to the venture.
The Ministry of Industrial Development is supporting the event. Most of the stalls at the exhibition have been bought by the Ministry and will be sold at concessionary rates to SME’ s and universities in the hope of generating interest in those sectors as well as encouraging the SME’ s to join the drive.
Additional Secretary of the Ministry of Industrial Development, R.V.D. Piyathilleke said that the Ministry has been taking many steps toward the betterment of the food processing industry. “It is one of the highest growing industries in the country and it has a lost of potential,” he said. He went on to state that the sector had experienced 50% growth in 2007 and attributed the increased competitiveness of the industry to the fact that many Sri Lankan companies are now adopting the Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point (HACCP) standard that EU markets have begun to demand.
Elaborating on the government’s initiatives toward the food processing sector, he mentioned a special credit scheme for SME’ s, the fertilizer subsidies that the government spearheads and the concessions given to the Agri-products firms through the “300 factories” programme being carried out under the Mahinda Chinthanaya.
Speaking of the challenges faced by food exporters, Sarath De Silva, President of the National Agri Business Council, said “Sri Lankan landowners are measly.” According to him, a large amount of land that can be cultivated is still being held back by various government departments and reluctant owners. “We need land to do projects on, not to own,” he said calling on the private sector to join in on the cause.
It was also revealed at the launch that 4000 of the patents for the high-breed seed varieties of the world are owned by four major multinational companies and 3000 of them are for Rice, Maize and Wheat, which leaves the billions-plus population of the world dependant on four entities.
This time’s exhibition will feature the packaging industry playing an important role as well. Packaging manufacturers, suppliers and importers of raw materials and machinery will be present from the sector.
President of the Sri Lanka Institute of Packaging (SLIP) A.K. Rathnarajah told The Sunday Times FT that most of the raw materials for the packaging is imported. “It is not economically viable to source them from here,” he said. He also revealed that the SLPI has had talks with the Central Environment Authority to look into eco-friendly packaging methods, but that no concrete steps have been taken yet.