35th Annual General Meeting of the Lanka Fruit & vegetable Producers, Processors and Exporters Association

29th September 2016

Lanka Fruits & Vegetable Producers, Processors & Exporters' Association, held its 35th Annual General Meeting on the 19th September 2016 at Hotel Ramada. The Chairperson of the Sri Lanka Export development Board, Mrs. Indira Malwatte graced this occasion as the Chief Guest.

Mr. Zuraish Hasheem assumed responsibility as the Chairman of the Association for the year 2016/2017.

Mr. Annes Junaid stepped down as the Chairman of the Association after completing 3 successful years in the said capacity.

Speeches delivered at the AGM are given below;

Mr. Annes Junaid, Outgoing Chairman

Mr. Annes Junaid, Outgoing Chairman's speech

The irony of this association is for the last 35 years this association has never had a lull period. Thankfully the past Chairman and chairpersons have kept a very vibrant association going on. Though the members are few in numbers, in thousands as it was, the strength of the association has been very active in the core activity of fruits and vegetables, be it fresh or processed or in production during the good times or in bad times, the association has kept pace. The members have been active and we have stayed together. Thanks to all the past chairman this has been a good tradition which has been continued and throughout this period as we all know this industry has gone through many pitfalls, many ups and downs, at the receiving end of all this, our members have stood united and have also enjoyed the good times and kept going.

Right now, we are in a totally and completely different phase of this industry. Where we really need to look forward to taking this industry to a new level. The opportunities are plenty; the global market is opening up. The EU market audits are going on right now and when the EU market opens us, as we know they want our fruits and vegetables, they like it and it's a hug opportunity in the making for us. With the new audit and certifications taking place to export wholesome fruits and vegetables. This is a grand opportunity at our doorstep right now. With this opportunity before us at least dangling in front of us. There are emerging threats coming. Usually our industry has faced many threats in the past, mostly from external threats. But recently and with all the developments that are taking place some of the good things which are taking place in the country such as the booming tourism sector as unfortunately turned out to be an external threat to the fresh fruit export industry and processed industry. I think our tourism has grown so much, I don't think anyone envisaged this growth so much where the local industry and tourism as a whole is consuming so much fruits and vegetables.

They are consuming the portion which could have gone into the fresh fruit export market or into the processed industry. This dearth along with bad support by the weather and together with upsurge in demand has created, I hope it's a short term threat to our industry. We are right now withstanding this, I don't know for how long. But we are on our own and hopefully this situation should change very soon.

With this threat is how we are going to overcome this for the next six months or medium term to long term, we need to strategize because the tourism industry is doing well, local consumption of fruits has increased tremendously. Local consumption has also increased and it has taken a sizeable portion out of the export and processed industry. We need to definitely address these two issues to overcome the difficulties we face in the short and medium term. I think our association has worked very hard in the last six months to one year in finding ways and means of increasing production. We are looking at various methods of engaging with authorities on increasing production. This is the top most area which needs to be addressed by the new committee and to be taken seriously forward or the industry will be seriously affected. Right now the processed industry is taking this toll which was been badly affected by the lack of fruits, and giving our competitors. I call upon the authorities, the department of agriculture, the Ministry of Agriculture and even the Export Development Board to really focus and get us somewhere with regards to the supply chain.

The most important item in our agenda is the enhancement of the supply chain. If we can fix this the market is always there. We've been repeating this mantra, selling is the least of our problems, exporting and finding the market for the produce is also the least of our problems, finding the produce to export is the biggest problem we face right now. We have to face up to this problem and to face the future, we have elected a very dynamic young chairman who can put in more time and effort, I am sure he will spearhead our efforts and gather all the institutions required to drive this sector forward. We really expect Mr. Zuraish Hashim able leadership will see us more fruits and more rains in the future. He is a big magician he can deliver a lot of things. So let's wish him all the best for the future and look forward to all of your support. I thank everyone for the great support extended to me during my tenure. We enjoyed every board meeting we had. We enjoyed those meetings once a month and it kept us going with this industry. Each time we met, even when we were in difficult times we were hopeful the industry would improve within the next 30 days. That was one positive aspect of our association. So thank you so much for all t he support. EDB has been the driving force. Everyone at EDB has helped us. I think if we don't achieve this at this particular time with our own chairman at the helm, it will be a missed opportunity. A definite missed opportunity if this association doesn't work hand in hand with the EDB at this moment with all the support from the Chairman downwards and the divisions involved there. I think this is the most prime time in our history where we can achieve a lot. Let's hope this will dawn a good era and a good beginning for this association.

I now call upon, our new chairman to deliver his remarks.

END of Mr. Abnnes Junaid speech.

Mr. Zuraish Hashim, Incoming Chairman

Speech of Mr. Zuraish Hashim, Incoming Chairman

Junaid, thank you. I've always been sitting on this chair at this table for the last ten years, wondering when I would sit on that chair. I have served as secretary and vice chair twice so finally I am here. Anyways, good evening. Madam, Chairperson Ms. Indira Malwatte, members of the board, ladies and gentlemen. It is indeed the most memorable and pleasurable day for me to be standing here this evening and accepting this position as chairman of our association. I used to remember most of you all used to wish me and ask me to take this post over. But to match somebody like Junaid, I don't think I can fit into your shoes. You've done a wonderful job as the past chair. It has been a pleasure to support him on his official engagements and personal engagements. At all times he carried out his duties with dignity, sincerity and distinction. On a more personal basis, I thank you on behalf of our membership for raising and keeping the standards high for our membership of national excellence.

Looking ahead to my year as chairman in office, I will seek to promote and enhance the participation of more members. I will endear to uphold the dignity of the office and the respect it enjoys throughout the Sri Lankan business community. I was thinking while writing up my speech what would be my main goal in the first or second year at office. Firstly what I picked up was working very closely and interactively with all stakeholders in the industry. As you all may know we have worked very closely with the Ministry of Agriculture, Department of Agriculture and the Export Development Board, Ceylon Chamber of Commerce, NPQS, NAC, all these organizations. We have worked with them and more closely in the recent past than before. That held us all together but the achievements what we have achievement is a totally different story. We have now started working together to achieve results which I am sure which in the next two years we will be able to show results which are tangible.

Secondly we need to sustain policy dialog and more enduring partnerships and challenges we must meet if we are to strengthen institution, human and community capacity within our industry. This can be one of the main aims during my tenure.

Then the other concentration would be to achieve production as Mr. Junaid stated very clearly. We have in the recent past spoken so much, many programs on production. It has always been production, production and production. However among some of these plans, some are still at planning stages and some have failed and others have been successful. But if you take the success rate, I don't need to tell you about it. Specially something like Pineapple. I am sorry to be touching up on pineapple all the time but this fruit which we together with the Export Development Board want to brand Sri Lankan pineapple. However if we don't have the produce we can't brand it accordingly. In fact at a meeting at a meeting at the Chamber recently, Mr. Ellawalla mentioned that our production has increased year on year by 50% roughly but the production today to various reasons as stated by Junaid. If you take the month of July, tourism has increased by 29.2%, so there are so many people and when they come to Sri Lanka they opt for pineapple. So I am looking forward to working with this committee to start something from scratch and make it happen. We've always gone back and found the land problem. The land we ask during the program, we were trying to do 25 acres and it's still on the drawing board. My request would be let's get together to start a program where when next year we have the AGM we can proudly state that we planned this and we accomplished this. Like what we don't do in our private businesses, we don't let our private businesses fail. But when we come to an organization like this in the national interest it is our duty to make sure we deliver.

Furthermore I wish to seize this opportunity to thank a few chairpersons who have served this organization and who continue to serve. Mrs. Austin, Mr. Nallaskanda and Mr. Ismeth Mohammed, thank you very much for your continuous support which you gave the team and Mr. Junaid. I hope and pray that you will be able to continue this support during my tenure here. Specially Ismeth.

So finally as a committee we have taken up some young faces, new faces, we have taken up the challenge and I look forward to your support since I can't do this alone. I would be standing here next year saying the same story otherwise. So let's make this happen. Thank you for placing your confidence in me to deliver what the country needs. Thank you

Let me take this opportunity to introduce the office bearers, of the association for the year. The following companies have been elected to serve on the board of directors of the Lanka Fruit and Vegetable Association for the year 2016/2017.

Development Interplan Zuraish Hasheem
CBL Natural Foods Annes Junaid
Eastern & Allied Agencies Shenali Panabokke
Jagro Private Limited Jagath Fernando
Transgro Private Limited Harsha Karunarathne
CR Exports Chamindi Ranasinghe
Expo Lanka Imdadh Marikkar
Amalgamated international Ismeth Mohammed
Ellawelle multiculture Suresh Ellawella
Nidro Supply (Pvt) Ltd Channa Madawala
Atiken Spence exports Chamila Gunaratne
HJS condiments Ananda Pathirage
Dilshad Enterprises Ahamed Cabeer
Gulf Enterprises Ranjith Anthick
Serene International Hafeel Yakoob
Exports T. Ainkaran
Mrs. Indira Malwatte, Chairperson Sri Lanka Export Development Board

Speech of Mrs. Indira Malwatte, Chairperson Sri Lanka Export Development Board

Chief Guest of the event

Good evening to all the members of the association. May I first congratulate Zuraish for the appointment and I am sure the members have the fullest confidence in him that he will take them through the good and bad times. Thank you Junaid the last three years of being at the helm and steering it to the heights it has come. I must also thank three other people as I too have been part and parcel of this association, my friend Dawn, Ismeth and Nana. The three of them have been anchors to this association and as Zuraish requested I am sure you will give him the unstinted support he sector requires.

When you look at Sri Lankan exports on the world market it is at just .03%. We are nowhere in the international market. Last year in 2015 we had achieved 60 million USD worth of exports and this year up to July its only 36 USD. I hope within the next two months, when it's also the tourist season I wouldn't think we would be able to achieve the target of 60 million USD. You all have also set targets like the EDB and by 2020 you have set the target of 200 million. That is a way off but it's possible. You get it very confidently and it is something if you all work together that it will be something we can achieve and be happy with ourselves.

The supply level of food has always been the issue and the weak link, not the markets. Very recently, I don't know if you all had the opportunity meet grand Mar from Qatar, they have linked with a company in Sri Lanka they are very happy with the quality but they have doubts with quantity. Next month you have Safari and Lulu coming in they are all looking at products and as you may all know they are looking at quality and competitive prices and sufficient quantity. Their orders are not small. But at least we've told them to start small and with their investment or support we can grow. I however firmly believe that we don't need investments provided that the government gives you what is required by all of us.

You spoke of weather. That will always be there Junaid. We cannot fight it. That's why modern agriculture, there's Jagath who has successes in modern agriculture and brought it to another level. I am sure all of you can learn how that company has commercial quantities has come up to a level, in those days when it came to Nail varnish everyone spoke of Qtex, now everyone talks of Jagro. I would like at least 10 of our companies to achieve that branding. EDB has a new scheme that we have just developed approved by board a week ago. Where we are willing to give assistance for companies with home grown brands. There is a member who has already applied for it, he had applied for it sometime ago but at the time we were not in a position to approve it because of budgetary constraints, as this program is outside the budget. But we managed to connect the funds from all unutilized programs and we have managed to launch it. Where a company will be given 1.5 million a year, we will help the company for three years, a sum of 4.3 million for their branding. The company will also have to put in 50% of their expenses. We have also increased the grant for marketing assistance where for a period of three years we will be giving Rs. 500 000 each for a period of three years. More than the marketing part, which as you said is not an issue, quality products of Sri Lanka speak for itself. I think it's more on supply quality. How do you develop supply?

EDB has just had a dialog with JEDB and we are trying to use their unutilized and underutilized land of JEDB. The Department of Export Agriculture have visited their number of farms, located land which the JEDB is willing to give on a long lease or partnership basis. The EDB is willing to advertise it next week and calling for expression of interest and depending on the crop and where the land is available the members can apply for it. That is one solution.

We are also in conversation with the Ministry of Plantation, where the RPCs have large number of unutilized land to see whether the PRC can give some of the land to companies who have been doing commercial cultivation. So with the land issue the EDB has taken some initiative and with next week's advertisement I hope to see some of the members will apply and request for land.

Along with the land we are also introducing another scheme where we are introducing some direct irrigation, not large amounts but for this year we have Rs. 500 000 per company which will be increased with next year's budget. So all is not doomed.

Think of it very positively and I think all of you should not cite the weather as reasons because that's something all of us have to deal with and try and modernize your own farms, increase modern equipment and increase productivity. Then with Israel government we have got 20 scholarships which we will advertise in a months' time, where the agronomist in companies can get some exposure and training in Israel. It's a two week course, most of it will be funded by the Israel government and the EDB.

As some of you may all know the delegation that is leaving to the Netherlands with the Embassy here, t he EDB has collaborated and I think there are 17 of them from the horticulture sector. There is a very extensive program that has been organized by the Dutch government and the EDB has also said that we will do a follow up with them on the same program not to just leave it the mission to the Netherlands but follow it up if there are very interesting buyers who want to do business, the EDB will assist them in coming to Sri Lanka and working with local companies.

These are some of the programs that the EDB is doing and with the WTU STDM where we are trying to introduce the Sri Lankan gap is something that the time of purchase, that we all ask for the Gap certified, this is something we can instill. As a group we have to do it. If one lets it go and says I can still do without the GAP certification, then we are letting down ourselves and the effort done by the Ceylon Chamber, the EDB and ITI will be lost. So this is something that we as a group should do. Zuraish this is something we can do. Instill the importance of certification. Again EDB has programs where for each certification the EDB can meet 50% of the costs. This is something EDB has planned for the future.

I can give you the assurance that my staff, she is not present here today; I have appointed a new director for agriculture Mrs. Malini Badagamage. She is an excellent person with deep knowledge of the agriculture sector. So you all have someone at the EDB with Srimathi and Darshana with whom you can discuss your issues and they are in a position to help. She knows the game very well. We didn't have a director earlier; there was only an acting director. So I have put that into place. I have a soft place for agriculture although I started with gem and jeweler. You all are a lovely bunch of people to work with.

I have enjoyed every bit of it having served as a member and then vice chair of this organization. As you mentioned it's not numbers, its quality. I think at the time we did with Subashini's assistance with the paper on Way forward, that still stands. I think you can take that as your guidebook and if you want to know anything you can refer to that. Treat it a little and you will have the information there. Even if it's for a budget proposal, the information is there.

So lets me wish everyone luck. I'd like to see exports going up. It has been a terrible year and actually the last five years, were exports were 40% of GDB it's at 14% of GDB. That does not speak well at the export sector. It is very challenging for me to get at least some of the sectors going up.

The GSP plus will be taken off but we have to have the EU audit. EDB is working with the ITI and we have said that we will collect the samples and for the MRLs selected for the process. We will support so is the ITI. I think for the government part they are very active.

There is a World Bank Group that is coming in and the Ministry of Agriculture and Export and primary industries. Again they will give you 50% of the export cost. I think they have called for proposals. I am not sure if all of you are aware. Make use of that. It's a good program where you can get a lot of assistance based on your project proposal.

There are a number of schemes that are available, we have tied up with ADB and IT Fruit and vegetable and processed food. Those three sectors, we are trying to develop 500 entrepreneurs. All those we are trying to develop to help exports. The supply base is being organized in some form.

For this ADB program, it will be regional based. So if you know of women entrepreneurs who want to engage themselves in the fruit and vegetable sector or process sector, you can introduce them to the ADB.

So all is not doomed. May I wish luck to all of us. Help us to increase our exports. The inward remittances are not doing well so exports become even more important and very relevant. Specifically fruit and vegetable as it can be very rural based. Not only for the Western province but all over Sri Lanka. There is a demand for Drumstick leaves for which you can all ask Darshana about. We are trying to encourage women to grow at least three layers of muranga so that it becomes a thick fence and then a source of income, by giving it to suppliers. It will get up their income by least Rs. 20 000. So the women won't have to go to the Middle East they can do this on their own little plot of land. We have also collection centers organized.

Another issue was the ban on glyphosate. A cabinet paper was submitted and it looks positive that in a control manner with monitoring that will be permitted within the next few weeks. These are measures taken by the EDB, ITI and the Ministry of Agriculture and Finance, all of us have to become a team and get exports on track.

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