Massive reform, investments required to revive TRI: stakeholders

20 October 2015 03:29 am - 0     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

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The Tea Research Institute of Sri Lanka (TRI), which was once the world’s premier research and development centre in tea, requires massive restructuring and investments to become useful once more, stakeholders said.
“The contribution the institute has made to the tea industry in the recent past has been poor. The complete restructuring of the institute and research work needs to be undertaken,” Lanka Tea Factory Owners’ Association (SLTFOA) Outgoing Chairman Gaya Samarasekara said.
He said that compliance with government financial administration regulations, restrictions on salaries and cadre requirements and lack of investment in information technology have led to TRI’s decline.
“We recommend that the TRI be given an autonomous status to efficiently conduct its research. The government could be a golden shareholder,” he said.
He stressed that without TRI research, creativity and innovation—which in the past had greatly contributed to Ceylon tea’s competitive edge—Sri Lanka will continue to struggle in global markets.
Plantation Industries Minister Naveen Dissanayake agreed that research and development (R&D) requires urgent upgrading.
“But there’s a severe lack of funds, and there’s no commitment—I’m sad to say, from any government—for R&D. It’s almost neglected. What can a research institute do with around Rs.300 million a year when foreign multinationals invest billions of dollars?” he asked.
Dissanayake suggested the private sector invest in the TRI, instead of raking in the profits during good times and begging the government for bailouts when the going gets tough.
Samarasekara recommended that in addition to investments in human resources and technology, the TRI should implement collaborative research with universities and other technology institutes—especially into areas such as weed killers, plant breeding, processing technology and testing methods to detect adulteration. (CW)
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