Experts have warned that the lack of diversification in agricultural exports in terms of products and destinations would make it difficult to reach the targeted US$ 50 billion exports.

Professor Buddhi Marambe of the Faculty of Agriculture at the University of Peradeniya speaking at a panel discussion under the theme ‘Championing value addition in agri exports’ at the recently held Economic Summit pointed out that Sri Lanka’s agriculture export had a high concentration in products and export destinations. “Unless we expand both aspects, we would face a risk in terms of achieving the US$ 50 billion target,” he said. The summit was held under the main theme ‘Towards exports of USD 50 billion’.

One of the concerns raised at the discussion was the lack of enthusiasm shown among the youth to indulge in agriculture cultivation.

Prof. Marambe stated that it was unfair to expect the sons of farmers to indulge in the same occupation. However, he stated that there were able and qualified youth who were willing to involve themselves in commercial farming. “We should let them to do this since they have the expertise,” he added.

Further, when responding to a question pertaining to mechanization of agriculture production and its impact, Prof. Marambe stated that such a move was necessary in the current context.

In addition participants had also called for a shift in agriculture exports from resource based to knowledge based phenomena in order to cater to the global niche market.

In terms of value addition, Prof. Marambe said that it was done in a limited manner in Sri Lanka. “If you take tea, 50 percent of its exportation is carried out with value addition while the remaining is sent in raw form,” he said. “We need to ensure that value addition takes place even in the production process,” he said.

Annes Junaid, MD, CBL Natural Foods (Pvt) Ltd, during the discussion at the Economic Summit, however, said that the target was gettable since there was no specific timeframe given.

He, however, stated that the country’s agricultural exports needed to move from resource based to knowledge-based phenomenon and called upon sector based institutions needed to gear up for the shift in order to keep with the world market.