By Shabiya Ali Ahlam
The longstanding stakeholders of Sri Lanka’s cinnamon cluster yesterday alleged the newcomers are distorting the quality of the spice exported due to poor producing and processing practices and urged the government to impose minimum standards to ensure the quality.
Speaking on behalf of those engaged in exporting premium cinnamon, Spice Council Founder Chairman Sarada de Silva said while Sri Lanka boats about being the largest producer of Cinnamomum Zealanicum,
the finest cinnamon available, it is unfortunate the industry is “killing the golden goose that lays golden eggs”.
“Too many exporters coming into the market has destroyed the name of Ceylon Cinnamon, hampering the good work that was done in the last decade,” charged de Silva while highlighting the issues in the local agriculture sphere in a forum organised by the National Agribusiness Council (NAC) in Colombo.
He pointed out that with production being the biggest challenge faced, the outcome of the current agronomical practices, which are of low standard, have resulted in poor quantity and quality yields.
Adding to the issue is also the absence of quality seed selection. Due to the increasing number of producers purchasing low-quality seeds, it was noted that the economic yield of a 65-year-old cinnamon tree cannot be fully reaped. Currently, the Export Agriculture Department approves the cinnamon plants and not the seeds. The seeds are purchased in kilos.
de Silva expressed confidence in the current cinnamon export value of US $ 159 million doubling, given that proper standards are maintained. He added all hopes are not lost, provided that immediate measures are taken to iron out issues.
Silva suggested that the Export Development Board (EDB) and Primary Industries Ministry are working together to set the minimum standard required for cinnamon exports, such as in the case of tea exports.
Meanwhile, acknowledging the standards are essential, EDB Chairperson Indira Malwatte said the stakeholders of the cinnamon industry are divided on the need for standards. Before the government is expected to intervene, she asserted the industry must reach a consensus on what is required to take it forward.
“When it comes to the export market and protecting the domestic market, the EDB is of the view that we should have certifications. However, it is up to the exporters and producers of cinnamon to come to a consensus. The government cannot impose this,” Malwatte said.
Currently the Sri Lanka Standard Institute (SLSI) has two standard certifications in place for cinnamon.