President Wickremesinghe unveils bold agricultural export initiative at the 25th Presidential Awards Ceremony
In a significant and forward-looking speech at the 25th Presidential Awards of the Export Development Board (EDB), held yesterday (24) at the Bandaranaike Memorial International Conference Hall (BMICH), President Ranil Wickremesinghe outlined a comprehensive plan to revitalize Sri Lanka’s agricultural sector for export, acknowledging past challenges and missed opportunities.
The President also underscored the importance of modernizing agricultural practices and enhancing research capabilities. He revealed plans to restructure and modernize existing agricultural research institutes, culminating in the establishment of the Agro-Technology University of Sri Lanka. This institution aims to support extension services and further innovation in the sector.
Reflecting on historical setbacks in the agricultural sector due to land reforms in 1972, President Wickremesinghe emphasized their adverse impact on agricultural exports. The President cited missed opportunities to focus on exports during key periods, such as the 60s, early 70s and post-war periods, attributing these lapses to internal conflicts and policy choices. The President expressed regret for not capitalizing on the country’s inherent strengths in agriculture, which other successful nations like Singapore had recognized.
Acknowledging the past neglect of agriculture due to various constraints, he emphasized the need to reposition the sector as a key player in the nation’s export strategy.
The President outlined a multi-pronged approach to agricultural development, targeting both small and large-scale farmers. He stressed the importance of providing financial support for smallholders to embrace agro-technology, aiming to enhance productivity. Additionally, plans were revealed to grant freehold status to individuals holding land development permits, fostering a sense of ownership and incentivizing further development.
In a bid to create opportunities for large-scale agriculture, President Wickremesinghe announced the allocation of previously undeveloped areas, including portions of the Mahaweli scheme and lands owned by government plantation corporations, for agricultural purposes. 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, President Wickremesinghe emphasized the need for extension services, collaboration with the private sector and the establishment of an agro-technology university. He outlined plans to review the performance of regional plantation companies and shift towards contract farming in the tea and rubber sectors.
Turning to broader economic challenges, President Wickremesinghe acknowledged the country’s lack of growth and opportunities over the past two years. He attributed these issues to a historical imbalance in the trade and emphasized the critical need to address the budget deficit and balance of trade and highlighted the urgency of increasing exports. The President elaborated on measures to improve the country’s fiscal situation and the availability of funds for small and medium industries affected by the economic crisis.
In a global context, President Wickremesinghe acknowledged the challenges posed by international competitors such as China, Vietnam, Thailand and Malaysia in the export-oriented industries. Despite this, he stressed the urgency of the current export drive, emphasizing the need to secure the country’s future and prevent further brain drain.
The President highlighted the importance of attracting investments, both foreign and domestic, to drive innovation and expand export markets. He announced financial support for small and medium industries, underlining the government’s commitment to preserving and strengthening the supply chain.
President Wickremesinghe reiterated Sri Lanka’s historical strength as an exporter of agricultural goods. He urged a return to these roots, emphasizing the potential for value-added exports in tea, rubber and coconut. The President encouraged stakeholders to explore new areas of exports, inviting investments and partnerships to ensure the sustained growth of the country’s export-driven economy.
Concluding his address, President Ranil Wickremesinghe positioned the revival of Sri Lanka’s agricultural exports as a requirement for the nation’s economic turnaround. By combining support for smallholders, large-scale agricultural initiatives and strategic planning for export diversification, the President set forth a comprehensive vision aimed at harnessing Sri Lanka’s rich agricultural legacy for a prosperous future.
The ambitious plans outlined by President Ranil Wickremesinghe signal a pivotal moment for Sri Lanka’s agricultural sector, offering a roadmap for economic revitalization and a renewed focus on export-driven growth.
President Ranil Wickremesinghe conferred the Presidential Awards to recognize the exceptional contributions of Sri Lankan exporters to the export sector and overall economic advancement. In addition to the awards ceremony, President Ranil Wickremesinghe presided over the launch of the Sri Lanka Export Brand, the online application https:pea.edb.gov.lk dedicated to Presidential Export Awards.
The event was attended by Ministers Nimal Siripala de Silva, Bandula Gunawardena, Mahinda Amaraweera, Douglas Devananda, Jeevan Thondaman, State Ministers Dilum Amunugama, Taraka Balasuriya, Kanaka Herath, Aravinda Kumar, Secretary of the Investment Promotion Ministry, M. M. Naimuddin, Dr. Kingsley Barnard, Chairman/Chief Executive Officer of the EDB, Foreign Ambassadors and other officials.