flowers being patented abroad by foreign firms
The dilemma of Lanka's floriculture
By Iromi Perera
Binara is a flower that is indigenous to Sri Lanka. Around
seven years ago, a group of floriculturists from Denmark on a visit
to Sri Lanka took back with them a sample of it, bred it, produced
it and today has patented it.
is not a rare occurrence as Sri Lanka has a very wide gene pool,
which is not being made use of fully by local companies and therefore
makes it difficult to prevent foreigners from taking them abroad.
is no patenting procedure when it comes to foliage in Sri Lanka.
This is a problem as Sri Lanka's many indigenous plants are being
taken abroad and patented. Dilip De Silva, President of the Floriculture
Produce Exporters Association, said that a lot of people protest
that native plants are being taken abroad but nothing is really
being done about it. When a company develops a new plant and sends
it to another country, there's no stopping anyone from multiplying
it and making money out of it.
floriculture industry in Sri Lanka started around 23 years ago and
was a very small industry with just a few companies. Today it is
a very significant industry, touching close upon one billion rupees
on exports last year. There are 3500-4000 people directly involved
in the industry. While the floriculture industry was not taken very
seriously for some time, its contribution to the economy was highlighted
in last year’s budget.
to De Silva, there is a huge growth potential for this industry
in Sri Lanka. If this potential is fully met, the turnover can be
doubled. The industry's global growth rate is about 15 per cent
annually but in Sri Lanka it has been 4-5 per cent over the last
Silva says that there are a number of reasons as to why the industry
is not growing at the rate it should be growing. One of the main
reasons is that capital is extremely high in Sri Lanka.
from China is also another problem, as cost of production there
is low and they are supplying to the same markets as Sri Lanka.
"If we are to bring down the cost of production we have to
expand," said de Silva, adding, "But expansion is limited
because of the finance problem." Freight costs are another
major problem for the industry as there is no preferential rate
for perishable cargo. The cost of freight is about 40 per cent of
the selling price of the products.
industrialists have been lobbying for preferential rates for many
years. They believe that they could be much more competitive in
the global markets if this is given.
is very difficult to grow as an industry when the government is
inconsistent with its policies," said de Silva, speaking on
the inconsistent policy issue in Sri Lanka, which is a major problem
for this industry. He added that while companies may grow individually,
it is difficult to grow as an industry.
institutional support from government agencies such as the universities
and the Department of Agriculture is yet another issue for the industry.
De Silva says that there should be a unit where the exporters can
go to if they have problems and get technical assistance, advice,
reason that Sri Lanka is surviving in the global markets is because
of quality. According to de Silva, a good example is the Japanese
market, which is more stringent on quality than the European Union.
"This is where we have scored because our exports to Japan
have increased in the last 5-6 years. That speaks well of our quality
control," said de Silva.
is a constant demand for new products and new varieties in the global
market. De Silva says that all the local companies are doing 90-95
per cent of the varieties exported from Sri Lanka as there is a
very wide gene pool in Sri Lanka, and a wide variety of plants,
which can be made commercial products. This is quite beneficial
to the Sri Lankan industry and must be made use of.
Silva is the Managing Director of Serendib Horticulture Technologies
(Pvt) Ltd, which was formerly Ceylon Tobacco Company Foliage, till
it was disinvested by CTC in 1999. De Silva, who was the General
Manager of CTC Foliage at that time, took over the company. The
company's main project is in Kalagedihena, on 22 acres of land.
There are also nurseries in Ambewella and Chilaw.
company's research laboratory takes local indigenous plants and
tries to make a commercial plant option from them. The main purpose
of the laboratory is breeding. Two million plants that are developed
at its tissue culture lab are exported every year and the company
is hoping to increase this to three million in 2005-2006. It was
started in March 2004 and is the only private research lab in Sri
export to Holland, Denmark, the Middle East, Japan and other countries.
According to de Silva, the company is currently doing some joint
ventures with some Middle Eastern companies.
are working on a new concept and investing in tissue culture labs,
which will be under the management of Serendib Horticulture and
funded by their Middle Eastern counterpart.
company was the recipient of three awards at the National Business
Excellence Awards 2004 organized by the National Chamber of Commerce.
They were- ‘Best company in the small sector,’ ‘Best
Global Reach’ and Best Company in the Agriculture, Fisheries,
Livestock, Mining and Quarries category.