According to minister of industry and commerce Rishad Bathiudeen, food SMEs employ 1.5m of Sri Lanka’s 21m population, making the segment “highly significant” to Sri Lanka’s economic planning.
“Our ministry has allocated close to LKR195m [US$1.2m] for this year alone to enhance Sri Lanka’s food sector in many projects. The most important project is the setting up of Sri Lanka’s first accredited food laboratory for SMEs,” Bathiudeen said.
The Centre for Food Analysis and Food Safety will cost LKR140m and will test products from across Sri Lanka. It will use both the local SLS and international ISO standards.
The efforts are part of a bigger plan to link food processing to the country’s export market, the minister added.
According to the Export Development Board, food shipments jumped by 112% in the last financial year to US$240.5m, led by processed fruits and vegetables, confectionary, bakery and processed foods.
Yet SME food processing segment could be much bigger than the official figures suggest, said Maliek de Alwis, president of the Sri Lanka Food Processors Association.
“It could be more than 50% if we are to count the unregistered village-level food suppliers, urban restaurants, street-side small hotels and bakeries,” he said.
“The ministry’s efforts will be relevant to all of them.”