Holistic back-end framework to build resilient Agri sector vital- Govindasamy
Sunshine Holdings Group Managing Director Vish Govindasamy yesterday urged the Government to strengthen the back-end structure of the local agriculture sector by identifying the key pain points of both public and private institutions and addressing them by actively engaging in discussions with relevant stakeholders.
Speaking as a panellist at the Sri Lanka Economic Summit ‘Roadmap for Takeoff: Driving a People-Centric Economic Revival’, organised by the Ceylon Chamber of Commerce (CCC), Govindasamy stressed that fortifying this framework would prepare the agriculture sector to leverage numerous post-COVID opportunities, bring prosperity for all parties involved and make the sector resilient for any future disruption.
“COVID-19 has brought several opportunities for the Agri sector, and we have ambitious plans on being self-sufficient in agriculture, dairy and fishery. While we are preparing for that, we need to make sure that all backend processes and the framework which encompasses these processes have to be robust. The government, with right inputs coming from industry stakeholders, has to relook at these processes and understand where the gaps are. Bridging these gaps will not only prepare the Agri sector to latch on to post-pandemic opportunities but also make the sector more resilient to change,” Govindasamy said.
Taking the dairy industry as an example, Govindasamy said, “The country has a great vision for the local dairy industry intending to make Sri Lanka self-sufficient in milk by 2023. However, the back-end framework has to be perfect before we even try to bring a herd. Also, the animals need to have enough feed, which means that we have to clear land for farmers to grow. This needs to be done through a transparent land clearing process. Furthermore, the industry needs to deploy enough machinery and bring in modern technologies to meet this target. There are so many aspects to be looked at from a back-end operations perspective to make front-end operations of the dairy industry successful,” said Govindasamy.
During the panel discussion, Govindasamy praised the Government for the measures taken to uplift the agriculture sector including the recent pledge by President Gotabaya Rajapaksa on empowering the local dairy industry and increase the domestic liquid milk production in the next decade. He commended the initial steps that the Ministry of Agriculture has taken to modernise the existing animal quarantine laws.
“I am delighted that the Government is looking at restructuring the existing quarantine laws,which are very archaic. Furthermore, laws related to bringing in animal vaccines is another aspect to look at. In a pandemic situation like this, we might have to bring in proper vaccines for animals, but the current processes are not robust enough to do so. Overall, I am happy with the approach that the Government is taking to developthe agriculture sector as well as the dairy industry,” Govindasamy added.
Watawala Dairy Limited (WDL), a 100% subsidiary of Sunshine’s agribusiness company Watawala Plantations PLC (CSE: WATA) manages a herd of 1, 600 dairy cattle. The farm currently produces around 18,000 litres of fresh milk per day and 540,000 litres per month. Annually, the farm releases 6.5 million litres of milk to the local market, which is 3.5% of the annual Sri Lankan milk production. WDL has also taken steps to empower the maise farming community in Sri Lanka and bolster Sri Lanka’s rural economy. Since 2017, the company has been purchasing maize from more than 40 maize suppliers from regions like Anuradhapura, Polonnaruwa, Ampara, Monaragala and Mahiyanganaya.
Moreover, the Company has allocated small areas of lands to families to cultivate land and supply farm with maize, grass and other input materials, as an additional source of income. This initiative has helped to increase the income level of these families by providing maise to the farm, harvesting and maintaining grasslands within the estate.