Ranil Wickremesinghe addressing EDB’s Presidential Awards event
- Proposed restructuring involves revamping existing agricultural research institutes, setting up of Agro-Technology University of Sri Lanka
- President stresses need to reposition the sector as a key player in the country’s export strategy
- Move to allocate previously undeveloped areas for large-scale agriculture to bring in 300, 000 acres for cultivation
In a momentous speech delivered at the 25th Presidential Awards of the Export Development Board (EDB) held yesterday in Colombo, President Ranil Wickremesinghe unveiled an extensive plan to rejuvenate Sri Lanka’s agricultural sector for export.
President Wickremesinghe emphasised the necessity of modernising agricultural practices and enhancing research capabilities.
The proposed restructuring involves revamping existing agricultural research institutes, initiating the establishment of the Agro-Technology University of Sri Lanka. This visionary institution aims to bolster extension services and foster innovation within the sector.
Reflecting on historical setbacks triggered by land reforms in 1972, the President underscored their adverse impact on agricultural exports. He candidly acknowledged the missed opportunities during crucial periods, attributing them to internal conflicts and policy choices, and expressed regret for not capitalising on the country’s inherent agricultural strengths recognised by other successful nations.
President Wickremesinghe stressed the need to reposition the sector as a key player in the nation’s export strategy. He outlined a multi-pronged approach targeting both small and large-scale farmers, including financial support for smallholders to embrace agro-technology, plans to grant freehold status to land development permit holders, and the allocation of previously undeveloped areas for large-scale agriculture.
This strategic move is expected to bring approximately 300,000 acres of land under cultivation within the next few years, requiring significant capital investment.
To ensure the success of these initiatives, the President highlighted the importance of extension services, collaboration with the private sector, and the establishment of an agro-technology university.
Plans were also revealed to review the performance of Regional Plantation Companies and shift towards contract farming in tea and rubber sectors.
Acknowledging broader economic challenges, President Wickremesinghe emphasised the historical trade imbalance and the critical need to address the budget deficit, balance of trade, and increase exports. He proposed measures to improve the country’s fiscal situation, highlighting the urgency of increasing exports to counter global competition.
He also underscored the importance of attracting investments, both foreign and domestic, to drive innovation and expand export markets. Financial support for small and medium industries, as well as the commitment to preserving and strengthening the supply chain, were announced as key initiatives.
Reiterating Sri Lanka’s historical strength as an exporter of agricultural goods, the President urged a return to these roots, emphasising the potential for value-added exports in tea, rubber, and coconut. He encouraged stakeholders to explore new areas of exports, inviting investments and partnerships for sustained growth.
In conclusion, President Wickremesinghe positioned the revival of Sri Lanka’s agricultural exports as pivotal for the nation’s economic turnaround.