By Shabiya Ali Ahlam A leading international agricultural research centre recently commended Sri Lanka for standing out amongst its regional peers in its efforts to uplift the food value chain, but stressed more focus is still required to boost the area. International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI), noting that agri-food value chain will have to play a significant role in the food system, said that although Sri Lanka is placed much higher compared to other South Asian countries in this regard, its value chain still contain elements of inefficiencies.
“Sri Lanka has done wonderful in terms of reforms. You are much above many of the South Asian countries who must learn from you, but the overall it can be said that the value chains are unorganised,” said IFPRI Director South Asia Dr. P. K. Joshi yesterday while addressing a national workshop on food value chain development in Colombo. “They are unorganised, fragmented and inefficient
There are several factors that contribute to this but what these inefficiencies lead to is nothing but loss, to both the supplier and the consumer,” he added. Calling for the development of a value chain that will allow all those involved to reap the benefits of a win-win situation, the senior IFPRI official suggested six characteristic that must be identified.
While it was suggested that value chains must be constructed in a manner that ensures all involved are “gainers”, it was stressed it must be inclusive where the system should capture even the small holders who are often left out. “The benefit of high value must reach this segment. The challenge is in engaging them,” opined Joshi. Sustainability was identified as key, and was suggested to be done so in two fronts. The first is to conserve natural resources and the other is in taking caution so that prices are not adversely affected.
Furthermore, it was urged that value chains must be climate-smart from the initial to the end stage, whilst it must also be designed to be health driven where it should aim at improving nutrition. The final and the most important characteristic a value chain must strive to have is business friendliness. “Unless it is business friendly the private sector will not involve and the public sector will not be committed,” noted Joshi.
The IFPRI representative pointed out that the challenges in realising the said characteristic are in identifying the required policies, mechanisms, and infrastructure needed. Meanwhile, Primary Industries Ministry Secretary Bandula Wickramarachchi said the government is actively looking at improving food value chains as a strategy to increase the turnover of key sectors. Alongside establishing agro-clinics that would help in mechanising the local agricultural space, Wickramarachchi said plans are underway to encourage and ensure zero waste, organic production, optimising renewable energy and implementing fair trade.