Sri Lanka’s food industry set to drive the nation’s economic growth


Minister Rishad Bathiudeen speaking at the inaugural ceremony.

By Jesse Neill

The 16th Profood Propack & Agbiz Processed Food Exhibition – 2017 was inaugurated at the Sirimavo Bandaranaike Memorial Exhibition Centre in Colombo last week.

Speaking at the event, Minister of Industry and Commerce, Rishad Bathiudeen emphasized the importance of this exhibition series as a significant trade and networking platform for the food and packaging industry.

"The ‘Profood Propack’ is the most comprehensive food and packaging international trade fair in Sri Lanka. As we launch the 16th exhibition, we can be satisfied that this is becoming one of the largest food, beverages, packaging and agri business fairs in South Asia", he noted.

Since its initial launch in 2001, the exhibition has expanded its scope to include over half a dozen international firms, including exhibitors from India, China, Malaysia, and Thailand. This is due to notable developments in Sri Lanka’s processed food sector, including improvements in technology, packaging, product development and marketing.

This trade fair is also critical to Sri Lanka’s economy. More than 40 percent of the nation’s Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) are in the food processing sector, which employs one a half million people and is reportedly valued at Rs. 100 million. With an increasing demand for food exports, this sector is positioned to see huge growth over the coming years, which will be crucial for Sri Lanka’s economic expansion.

According to the Export Development Board, the value of Sri Lanka’s processed food exports in 2016 more than doubled from the previous year, jumping from 113 million USD to almost 240 million USD. These food exports include processed fruits and vegetables, bakery and confectionery items, as well as processed foods.

President of the Sri Lanka Food Processors Association (SLFPA), Maliek De Alwis, expressed optimism that the country’s food sector will continue to expand. "This trade fair plays a significant part in this development". 

"Today, we are proud to host over 330 stalls, representing almost every part of the food chain and every sub-sector in the food processing industry. We are expecting over 30,000 visitors over the next three days, a big achievement when 16 years ago, this was the first of its kind in Sri Lanka. Today we have micro, small [and] medium businesses, alongside large and multinational [corporations] displaying their goods and services to the world", he noted.

"Our food industry is uniquely placed in a rapidly growing market, giving us the opportunity to show our foods and flavours to the world. As global consumers, have an ever increasing interest in what they eat and where it comes from", he said.

"We as an association have always driven the industry to higher standards. Through our initiatives we aim to help build Sri Lanka as a manufacturer and supplier of ethically sourced, sustainable, and healthy food products for the world", De Alwis added.

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