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Sri Lanka: promotion of the export of agricultural produce through greenhouse farms

A leading local vegetable and fruit export company, the International Food Stuff Agro-Bio-Tech Private Ltd [IFCO] based in Colombo with farms in Bandarawela, Boralanda and Rathaba now produce export crops and purchase vegetables and fruits from the small scale growers, especially greenhouse farmers to end the role of middlemen in the Uva region.


Tomato plants being grown in a Greenhouse farm

"We want to assist the farmers to grow more vegetables and fruits and collect vegetables, fruits and other spices from them in Uva region," said Chairman of the Company Mr.Sarath de Silva.

At present Uva Paranagama Export Produce Village Company Ltd which is a brain child of the Export Development Board manages a number of greenhouses in the Uva province. The Indian Credit Line has assisted to grant loan facility for over 600 farmers in this region.

“Each farmer has received Rs.157,000 from the Indian Credit Line,” said R.A. Sirisena of Rathaba , a greenhouse farmer. "We are paying loan back in installments for them," said Mr. Sirisena who was trained at the Agricultural in service Centre at Bindunuwewa.

Meanwhile, Farmers at the Uva province ask for more Green houses, which is a good income earner for the farmers in the province to produce additional export quality fruits and vegetables. The green house owners said that they need additional funds to set up more green houses in their gardens.

"We need over 300,000 Rupees to setup a green house in our lands. If the government disburses funds, we can produce more vegetables for export, " they said. According to the Uva-Paranagama Export Produce Village Company Ltd, the total harvest of these Greenhouses is exported through various companies."IFCO is one of leading exporter for our products," said a Green House owner.

The IFCO buys various vegetables produced by the Green House owners. "We want to increase our export volumes by another 10 per cent. We have enough orders from foreign companies. We need fresh and quality fruits and vegetables," said Mr.Sarath de Silva.

"Our company's aim is to develop the rural economy; it is also a concept of Mahinda Rajapaksha, the President of Sri Lanka. Now we are moving to setup a factory at Ambagasdowa, which will purchase vegetables and fruits from the farmers. The proposed factory will pack all quality vegetables and fruits for exporting purposes," he said.

Mr.Gunathilaka Rajapaksha, a main vegetable collector in Bandarawela said that farmers need assistance from the responsible authorities to send their products to markets without post harvest losses. "At present I educate them to use plastic trays for easy transportation Of fruits and vegetables," he said.

"The IFCO also manages post harvest losses using plastic trays and pay very reasonable price for vegetables and fruits," he said. Meanwhile, the vegetable and fruit growers of Sri Lanka are asking for a number of concessions to cut their production cost and to end the middlemen menace in their trade.

At present middlemen earn very good commission from vegetable and fruit trading, say farmers. A woman farmer R.Piyawathi.of Bandarawela said that vegetable farmers need low-priced manure and pesticides to maintain their cultivations .At present paddy farmers have an opportunity to purchase low-priced manure from Agrarian Service Centers.

"We do not have low-priced manure," said vegetable growers. They said vegetable growers have to spend over 100,000 rupees to cultivate a half an acre land plot. "Due to the prevailing situation, we can’t reduce prices of vegetables," farmers said.

The farmers said that they need non-variable price structure for their products. "If the President can mediate in this effort, the entire vegetable farmers can survive," the farmers said.