By Shabiya Ali Ahlam The apex industry body for spices in the country has urged the government to give due emphasis to pepper, just as for cinnamon, and take effective measures that would help double production in the short term.
Spices and Allied Products Producers’ and Traders Association (SAPPTA) pointed out that easy maintenance of pepper plantation, coupled with high global demand, makes it one of the key produces to help Sri Lanka reach its aspiring export earnings targets. “Our request to the government is to help the planters boost production. For that we urge the release of unutilized land, continue the fertilizer subsidy (including glyceride), and not tax by way of cess.
“If it is not possible for all commodities, it should at least be offered for pepper as it has immense potential given that there is a global shortage,” said SAPPTA Chairman Vernon Abeyratne.
The association also called for the government to come up with measures to make the maximum utilization of existing land, so that the production capacity per acre increases.
Currently Sri Lanka produces 450Kg per acre whereas Vietnam, that has been cultivating pepper for only about 25 years, produces 1000Kg per acre. “If we can utilize proper high yielding agriculture practices we can certainly double our production in the next three years. For this we require support from the relevant authorities. Higher production means higher exports, which obviously is good for the country,” noted SAPPTA Founder Chairman Gulam Chatoor.
For 2015 to date Sri Lanka’s pepper production stands at 32,700 MT, accounting for only approximately 10 percent of the global production of 362,000 MT. Vietnam which has grown to become the largest producer has an output of 150,000MT. Furthermore, of the Rs.150 million allocated at the budget 2016 for the branding of spices, the association called the government to utilize a proportion of the sum to fund value addition processes.
However, SAPPTA is of the view that value addition is not necessary for pepper as the demand for the product in its original form is high.
SAPPTA also stressed the government must protect local players by not allowing foreign entities to be part of the industry. “We oppose this foreign entities being part of our sector,” said SAPPTA immediate past Chairman M. C. M Zarook referring to the BOI approved Indian entity that has been operating in the country for nearly five years.
“They (government) can give BOI approval for such companies provided that they sign to agree to cultivate 500 hectare over a certain period of time,” he stressed.
Little faith in govt. branding exercise
Noting that global branding for Lankan spices is essential, SAPPTA implied it has no faith in the government’s branding efforts.
“Being in the trade over a long time I must say that we have not been successful in correctly branding our products. Look at Ceylon Tea, it has not been successful. I don’t know what and how they will carry out the promotion for spices. When you look at branding you have to do it in broader sense.
I don’t think we can reach international level branding in this century,” expressed SAPPTA immediate past Chairman M. C. M Zarook. The association stressed it is imperative for the Rs.150 million allocated for branding to be utilized in “correct” and “careful” manner. Despite having imposed CESS on spices, an effective global branding exercise is yet to kick off.