The objective of the Local Empowerment for Economic Development (LEED) project is to promote inclusive economic development of the people in the Northern and East Provinces, creating decent employment and long-term sustainable livelihoods. It recognizes the important role of the private sector and especially the export sector to achieve these objectives.The National Chamber of Exporters of Sri Lanka (NCE), the only private sector chamber exclusively serving exporters, has collaborated with the LEED project, with a view to establish business linkages between the exporters from the North and producers in the Northern and Eastern Provinces for mutual benefit.
The NCE jointly with the International Labour Organisation (ILO) recently conducted a follow up awareness seminar for exporters to disseminate information on the produce and products available from the North for export. The event took place at Hotel Sapphire. Around 50 established exporters attended the event. Resource speakers from the NCE and ILO presented their views related to the subject. Greenfield Bio Plantations Consultant Dr. Krishnarathne and Rabeena Foods Director Kala Amirthalingam, who have established successful business linkages spoke about their experiences and thereafter participated in a panel discussion to clarify the issues that participants had.
As a result of the initiative of the NCE, a few of its members have already established business linkages with producers in the Northern Province. Served delegations of member exporters have been already led by the NCE to the North and East. The visits were facilitated by the officers of the LEED project in Kilinochchi and Batticaloa.
The members of the delegation have held discussions with the relevant state officials and have also visited producers and manufacturing groups. Although these initial visits were intended to be only of an exploratory nature, the outcomes have exceeded expectations resulting in the successful establishment of firm business linkages. Four member companies of the NCE are already engaged in business activities with producers and manufacturers in the North and East in the agriculture sector (fruits and vegetables and fibre sub sectors) and in boat building related to the fisheries sector. Two more companies are in the process of finalizing contracts with producer groups. Business linkages already established are as follows:
1. CR Exports – sources papaya, cassava and snake gourd from Kilinochchi
2. HJS Condiments – sources papaya from Kilinochchi
3. Rabeena Foods – sources Palmyra jaggery and processed food from Kilinochchi
4. Greenfield Bio Plantations (Pvt.) Ltd – has established a Dehydration Plant
With a view to building on the successes achieved so far, the ILO office in Sri Lanka and the NCE, entered into a formal agreement to facilitate business development activities. Through a steady supply of produce to meet exporter demands, producers benefit by improving their incomes and living standards. Most importantly, the project conveys the message of peace and trust between the people of the North and South and facilitates the reconciliation process through meaningful action.