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TAMAP workshop on e-Agriculture and Digital Market Platforms to strengthen knowledge and initiatives for digital transformation

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To provide stakeholders a platform to gain further understanding of current applications and initiatives of e-agriculture systems, the European Union-funded ‘Technical Assistance to the Modernisation of Agriculture Programme’ (TAMAP) conducted a workshop on e-Agriculture and Digital Market Platforms in Colombo .

TAMAP in collaboration with the Hector Kobbekaduwa Agrarian Research and Training Institute (HARTI) brought together private and public sector entities to discuss digital solutions for farmers. Participants were provided with information regarding new agricultural technology applications to expand markets and market opportunities. The current COVID-19 crisis underscored the need to harness e-agriculture solutions to provide real-time information while practicing physical distancing.

Welcoming the participants both at the venue and those joining the workshop online, Dr Christof Batzlen, TAMAP Team Leader indicated that, “TAMAP has started to analyse the demand for e-agriculture solutions in Sri Lanka. TAMAP and HARTI have initiated this discussion to take stock of who is doing what and to examine the nature of the long term plans. The workshop is an entry point for further discussions, regarding the facilitation of e-agriculture and intended to provide direction and recommendations for e-agriculture and digital market platforms in Sri Lanka.”

Joining the workshop via Zoom, Sebastian Balcerak of TAMAP provided a market perspective on What is e-Agriculture? Overview on Various e-Agriculture Systems and Applications in the Global World. He elaborated on the EU’s existing support for e-agriculture, current players, large and small, and interactions between both buyers and sellers.

Explaining FAO’s Digital Agriculture Strategy, Approach and Plan for e-Agriculture in Sri Lanka, Dr Xuebing Sun, FAO Representative in Sri Lanka and Maldives, said, “e-Agriculture is one of the major strategies used by the FAO to promote transformational change in the agricultural sector. FAO is committed to assist the government and its partners to support an emerging digital society. The goal is to develop a national approach: A holistic digital-agriculture approach with a national vision and overall strategic objectives. This to be achieved by identifying the digital-agricultural priorities of the nation and defining the areas of intervention, as well as stakeholders’ responsibilities and necessary resources.”

As the agency responsible for dissemination of appropriate agriculture technologies to farming communities, the National Agriculture Information & Communication Centre, Department of Agriculture’s representative at the workshop, S. Periyasamy, Director, elaborated on What are GoSL’s requirements for an e-agriculture system in Sri Lanka.

He stated that although NAICC encountered challenges to engage stakeholders in an action plan, several ICT initiatives designed by the Department of Agriculture are being successfully implemented. These include management information systems, mobile applications, sharing information through websites, radio broadcasting, call center solutions, social media-based solutions, and digital and printed publications.

Prof. Ranjith Premalal De Silva, Director/CEO, HARTI, while expressing his views on Digital Market Platforms – Issues and Expectations, asked if farmers are prepared to undertake this change and move towards virtual interaction. He considered that, “From farm-gate to food plate, the length of the supply chain can be minimized through digital market platforms”. Prof De Silva elaborated on some constraints to the introduction of the platforms such as farmers’ perspectives, buyer/consumer concerns, retaining the middleman’s legacy, e-product deliverables and the technological backdrop.

Subsequently several digital market platforms for the agricultural sector in Sri Lanka were presented. Mr H.M.J.K. Herath of the GIS Unit of HARTI, presented the HARTI platform and Govipola of Croptronix, Helaviru of Epic and Govi Mithuru of Dialog provided information about their platforms and product offerings. The participants were also updated on the development challenges of these platforms and the future directions for strengthening their user value.

This was followed by a vibrant panel discussion looking into strategies to unlock key bottlenecks for e-agriculture development. Prof Buddhi Marambe of Peradeniya University of Agriculture facilitated the entire workshop and the panel discussions.

Dr Olaf Heidelbach, Programme Manager at the EU Delegation concluded the workshop by stating: “It is amazing to see what has been developed over the past years by the private sector while working in cooperation with the government. My main recommendation for the future – on the country’s e-agriculture strategy – is to identify the comparative advantages of different stakeholders by establishing who is doing what, best. The development of e-Agriculture in Sri Lanka depends to a large extent on private sector initiatives. Dr Heidelbach expressed his satisfaction over the view from the government that “it wishes to play an enabling role as a regulator and ensuring a level playing field.”

 



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Dialog Axiata extends its support to the Sri Dalada Perahera for the 16th consecutive year

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As a key contributor and advocator of the major cultural and religious festivals in the country, Dialog Axiata PLC, Sri Lanka’s premier connectivity provider, once again extended its support to the Kandy Esala Perahera (also known as the Sri Dalada Perahera or the Festival of the Tooth) which was held from August 2 – 12.

One of the oldest and most venerated religious festivals in Sri Lanka, the Sri Dalada Perahera is held in the month of Esala (July or August) to commemorate the first sermon of Lord Buddha after he attained enlightenment. A 10-day event, the Kandy Esala Perahera pays homage to the Sacred Tooth Relic and its four guardian deities, Gods Natha, Vishnu, Kataragama and Goddess Pattini. The procession appeals to the Gods, seeking their blessings for rains that will aid the cultivation of crops and the prosperity of the country.

While large crowds of spectators travelled from near and far to witness the procession, Dialog enabled its customers with the facility to watch the festival from the comfort of their homes by broadcasting it on Dialog Television.

In its efforts of preserving and promoting Sri Lanka’s heritage and culture, Dialog has been a long-term patron of a multitude of events across the country, contributing to the upliftment of Sri Lanka’s rich cultural history. This year will be the 16th consecutive year Dialog Axiata has extended its support to the historical Kandy Esala Festival and the procession of the Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic of Kandy.

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Profit-takings in blue chip counters put an end to bourse’s bullish run

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By Hiran H.Senewiratne

The CSE turned negative yesterday having traded with a bullish run for 12 consecutive days due to profit- takings of many counters, especially blue-chip counters. This development could be considered as the market correction, stock market analysts said.

Sri Lanka’s shares fell over 1 per cent in mid-day trade, pulled down by retail shares after gaining for 13 sessions. The main All- Share Price Index fell 0.82 per cent or 75.55 points to 9,115.97 during the middle of the session.

“On selected shares there is profit- taking but overall the market rose about 2200 points in the last 12 sessions, so we were seeing investors shifting into energy and plantation sector shares from the usual Expolanka, Browns Investments, Browns, LOLC and LOLC Finance, a top analyst said.

In the past few weeks, Lanka IOC and plantation sector shares pushed the index up. Lanka IOC stocks became most sought after and owing to the acute fuel shortage they had enough sales and have recorded high profits, while plantation sector stocks increased due to the dollar appreciation against the rupee, market analysts said.

“There is also a reaction in the banking sector counters as well with the banks adjusting for the ISB restructuring and also higher impairments in the sector. Therefore, we are seeing a selloff in banking counters too, analysts said.

The indices however were a bit subdued due to profit- taking. The ASPI gained by 1.8 per cent and the S&P SL20 improved by 0.8 per cent. The All- Share Price Index went down by 105.2 points and S and P SL20 declined by 60.2 points. Turnover stood at Rs 5.4 billion with two crossings. Those crossings were reported in Hunas Falls, which crossed 1.4 million shares to the tune of Rs 54.7 million, its shares trading at Rs 40 and Hela Apparel 3.7 million shares crossed to the tune of Rs 48.9 million, its shares traded at Rs 13.

In the retail market top seven companies that mainly contributed to turnover were, Lanka IOC Rs 1.5 billion (4.8 million shares traded), Expolanka Holdings Rs 665 million (three million shares traded), Browns Investments Rs 459 million (52.1 million shares traded), ACL Cables Rs 320 million (4.2 million shares traded), LOLC Holdings Rs 141 million (230,000 shares traded), Hayleys Rs 117 million (1.1 million shares traded) and EML Consultants Rs 111 million (21 million shares traded). During the day 222 million share volumes changed hands in 42000 transactions.

It is said the market continued its run in the green; however, witnessed some profit- taking in active counters following several sessions of gains. Lanka-IOC, Expolanka and Hayleys, which have witnessed sharp gains recently, closed in the red.

It is said high net worth and institutional investor participation was noted in Lanka IOC, Melstacorp and Royal Ceramics. Mixed interest was observed in Hayleys and Vallibel One, while retail interest was noted in Browns Investments, SMB Leasing and Softlogic Capital.

The Capital Goods sector was the top contributor to the market turnover (due to Hayleys), while the sector index gained 2.86 per cent. The share price of Hayleys recorded a loss of Rs. 3.75 (3.18 per cent) to close at Rs. 114.25.

The Food, Beverage and Tobacco sector was the second highest contributor to the market turnover (due to Browns Investments and Melstacorp) while the sector index increased by 3.39 per cent. The share price of Browns Investments gained 70 cents (8.54 per cent) to close at Rs. 8.90. The share price of Melstacorp appreciated by 80 cents to close at Rs. 55.60. Separately, Lee Hedges PLC announced a cash dividend of one rupee per share.

Yesterday the Central Bank- announced US dollar buying rate was Rs 357.37 and the selling price Rs 368.68.

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SL seen as losing billions of dollars as a result of not making use of her locational advantage

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By Hiran H.Senewiratne

‘Sri Lanka is located at the heart of a vital global shipping line and more than 45000 ships and an equal number of aircraft navigate this route via Sri Lanka’s Dondra head annually. However, not a single ship nor aircraft is enabled to make a stop-over at Dondra for bunkering, re-fueling and other operational services which could bring in billions of dollars for the country. Thus, we could be seen as sitting on a gold mine, former chairman, Sri Lanka Ports Authority and Ceylon Shipping Corporation Ranjith Wickramasinghe said.

Wickremasinghe made these observations at a zoom forum organized by the Institute of Certified Management Accountants of Sri Lanka (CMA) on the subject, “Solution to the Debt Crisis Using Nature”, last week.

Extracts from Wickremasinghe’s presentation: ‘Sri Lanka is now grappling with a huge debt trap running into about US $ 60 billion. Because of that the entire country is now suffering. In 2018 our national debt amounted to US $ 18 billion and now it has gone up to US $ 60 billion. But over the last decade our economy grew by 40 per cent until the debt balloon burst.

‘When we study the factual situation we find that every six minutes some ship of aircraft passes our southern region and we don’t get a single dollar, especially because ships arriving from East, South and West through the Suez canal by pass Dondra and call over at Singaporean ports.

“Sri Lanka enjoys a 200 nautical mile Exclusive Economic Zone but foreign ships merely navigate through this route without paying anything to Sri Lanka, causing severe damage to nature, which damage has not been quantified by Sri Lanka.

‘Thirty per cent of world trade takes place along this route. Sometimes huge ships that carry more than 25000 containers consisting of retail goods that go from the USA to China and vice versa traverse this route. These two countries together contribute more than 60 per cent to world trade.

‘Most of these ships coming from the Suez canal cut through Dondra and reach Singapore without going round, which reduces traveling by 400 nautical miles or by one day, saving 200 tons of fuel. Average cost of a one ton of fuel is US $ 100, which amounts to about US $ nine billion. If Sri Lanka functioned as a bunkering point/ fueling point we could earn more than US $ nine billion per year by serving 45000 plus ships. Apart from that if Sri Lanka offers other operational services to those ships, we could earn another US$ 12 billion.

‘Sri Lanka must support the United Nations, World Bank and other quarters to salvage it from the US $ 60 billion debt trap. Our debt to GDP is not sustainable. We should avail of a debt waiver for two years until our trade balance becomes stable. We should then go in for bridge financing for another two years and after five years we could become rather stable.’

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