According to the Minister, the large number of micro enterprises and SMEs in Sri Lanka provide more than 50% of the country’s jobs. Among these enterprises, food processing firms account for more than 40%.
The Minister announced the possibility at the Pro Food-Pro Pack Industry Awards in Colombo, as part of the government’s investment plan for food-related sectors.
He also called on the representatives from China and India present to invest in Sri Lanka’s food processing and packaging, and to partner with the companies.
“Our efforts to develop these sectors are a part of our bigger plan to link the sector to our exports," he said.
Bathiudeen also said the Sri Lankan government has allocated Rs 100 million (about US$645,370) to develop the processed food sector and to support the micro and SMEs.
Challenges to growth
While the country’s processed food sector has had notable growth, it faces challenges to remain competitive and to further grow, including in the technology to drive innovation and productivity.
Sri Lanka Food Processors Association President Maliek de Alwis agreed, adding that Sri Lanka’s Food Processing Industry (FPI) remains largely untapped due to high packaging cost, cultural preference for fresh food, seasonality of raw materials, and a lack of adequate infrastructure and facilities as well as quality control mechanisms.
Still, the FPI has managed to grow in scope over the years with the emergence of new markets and technology, including in new products in the ready-to eat, beverages, processed and frozen fruit and vegetable product, marine and meat product categories.
Bathiudeen further said that the Industrial Development Board (IDB) has set up Sri Lanka's first Accredited Food Laboratory for these enterprises.
For the first time, the country will have a lab capable of testing food products from around the country, using local as well as international standards such as ISO.
The Ministry has urged food industry companies to acquire these certifications to ensure food safety and to gain recognition for their products.
Bathiudeen added that his ministry has also made investments “to promote knowledge and acceptance of Sri Lankan cuisine across the globe”.