Post harvest loss of fruits and vegetables in Sri Lanka is more than 40 percent. This is caused mainly by lack of proper transportation, poor storage facilities and flawed packaging systems, Minister of Primary Industries Daya Gamage said.“Due to heavy post harvest waste of fruits and vegetables the Ministry of Primary Industries together with Agriculture Ministry, Ministry of Rural Industries and Fisheries Ministry will set up 21 export oriented agricultural zones in the country, Minister Gamage said at the inaugural ceremony at a workshop held at Waters Edge Hotel yesterday.
The theme of the event was ‘Emerging Food Safety and Quality Risks in South Asia,: Challenges and Opportunities for Sri Lanka.’. It was organised by the Ministry of Primary Industries and the Institute of Policy Studies in collaboration with the International Food Policy Research Institute.
Food safety experts from India, Bangladesh, Nepal, and Sri Lanka participated in the workshop, where they discussed changes in the region’s food system, including rising urban consumption and the new challenges it presents for policy, such as, the adoption of stringent food quality standards.
Gamage said that like other South Asian countries, Sri Lanka’s populations has grown significantly in recent years, most notably in urban areas. Therefore, the first high tech agricultural zone will be set up in Anuradhapura and the government will initially set up ten in the country, he said.
“These zones will provide training and know-how for farmers to prevent post harvest waste. Further, those zones will provide storage facilities with deep freezers and proper packing methods for farmers,’ Gamage said.
He also said that these economic zones will provide knowledge on reducing post harvest water accumulation when transporting, storing and packaging, with the assistance of new technology, which we would be getting from other developed countries.
Gamage said that since the agriculture sector could be converted into a major export business government is now looking at investors.
The Ministry of Primary Industries will grant 50 percent and a bank loan will be arranged to add up to Rs. 100 million for prospective investors who are willing to invest Rs. 10 million, Gamage said.
Director South Asia, of The International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) P.K Joshi said that when compared to other South Asian countries Sri Lanka is doing well where the food safety area is concerned. Joshi presented key findings from the Institute’s 2017 Global Food Policy Report to Gamage.
He also said that urbanization is driving huge changes in how small farmers connect with markets to sell their goods, the choices people make about their diets and the way that food systems are governed.
In Sri Lanka, farmers are now working to meet urban food demand and improve food safety through enhanced networks and increased access to technology, Joshi added.