Whopping USD 1.65 bn spent on food imports in 2020 | Daily News

Whopping USD 1.65 bn spent on food imports in 2020

State Minister of Paddy and Cereals, Organic Foods, Vegetables, Fruits, Chili, Onions and Potatoes Seed Production and High-tech Agriculture, Shasheendra Rajapaksa observing the progress of the ‘Onemart Digital Online Platform’ at the Narahenpita Special Economic Centre

Sri Lanka imported over USD 1,650 million worth of food items last year, said Secretary, Colombo Business Association (CBA) Chaminda Vidanagamage.

He said that it was sad to note that some items in the imported basket included onions, potatoes, chills ect. which are grown in Sri Lanka. “Even Jaffna grape farmers have ‘upped’ their product but sadly none of the supermarkets have made any effort to sell them.”

Vidanagamage said that each GS division has several agricultural graduates working as officers and they should be encouraged to visit local farmers and help to increase local production where there can be import substitution for products such as onions, potatoes, chills and grapes.

He said that the Colombo Business Association also has taken an initiative to promote rural agriculture by launching Onemart Digital Online Platform on August 15, 2021, which will also make it possible for the farmers to sell their produce directly to the customer eliminating the middleman.

He said that this online platform has made rapid progress and since it’s launch has delivered over 7,500 online orders for customers in Colombo and Gampaha district areas. The items included fruit and vegetables, rice, milk powder and other essential items. In addition, over 2,900 kilos of fish were distributed under the ‘Onemart Digital Online Platform’ from the Narahenpita Special Economic Centre.

This scheme has linked several new SME entrepreneurs and customers together and created over 50 new employment during the lockdown period. “As a precautionary measure for the customer staff engaged in this program, antigen tests are being carried out every six days.

Meanwhile, Agriculture Minister Mahindananda Aluthgamage said that the import of dried chilies will be stopped by 2024. “We will grow another 3,000 acres of land with chilies fulfilling the total demand for chillies.”

The country is importing chilies from foreign countries at a cost of Rs. 8,900 million a year. The Minister said that about 50,000 metric tons of dried chilies will be produced this year and about 300,000 metric tonnes of raw chilies is needed to meet the target. About 160 new chilli nurseries have been set up in the Kandy District to obtain seed chillies.

In addition 100 acre organic chilli cultivation project is being successfully implemented utilizing uncultivated lands of Galabada Estate, Nawalapitiya of the state owned Janatha Estate Development Board. “We will increase this cultivation by another 100 acres next year.”

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