Making pineapple a winning Sri Lankan export crop

LIRNEasia, a think tank headquartered in Sri Lanka and representing South Asian, has teamed up with the Lanka Fruits, Vegetable Producers and Exporters Association (LFVPEA) and are jointly involved in a project to find out ways and means of obtaining more money from agriculture – and to improve the agriculture value chain to make it a win-win solution.

They held an open discussion programme with expert research findings last week at the Ceylon Chamber of Commerce Auditorium and the focus at this open forum was on pineapple growing and how to assist the pineapple smallholders to overcome the hassles in producing quality consistent fruit, and to ascertain on adequate supplies to the export market.

Sri Lankan pineapple, despite being an orphan crop (where little scientific research has been done), has proved lucrative. According to the study findings, some industry experts say that Sri Lankan pineapple is among the best in the world. But the current study revealed that the pineapple growers have a problem about the high cost of production particularly due to fertilizer, lack of established best practices and shortage of land for pineapple production as biggest problems faced by the producers.
These issues in turn affect the exporters and processors who are plagued by insufficient and unreliable supply.

The study revealed that after extensive research on the pineapple growing and the market conditions the following recommendations were made to: establish a database of pineapple plant/slip suppliers; to create the conditions for growers to converge on a set of best practices; use classified advertising in an optimal manner to match demand and supply for land suitable for pineapple growth; move to an out-grower model and develop the organic pineapple market.

Dr Rohan Samarajeewa, CEO, LIRNEasia who moderated the whole programme said that their organization focuses on knowledge and information issues which are beyond technology. He said that their researchers have visited pineapple farms, met the farmers and discussed all aspects of the pineapple industry.

Pineapple growers in Sri Lanka predominantly learn from each other, in the absence of extension services and practices widely differ from the top pineapple growing countries. These variations have negative effects on the productivity of Sri Lankan pineapple cultivation.

In establishing an out-grower model, discussions were also focused at the establishment of pineapple farmer cooperative units. It was discussed that the present system of cooperatives in Sri Lanka is highly politicized and even political meetings were held in cooperative offices and are not conducive to follow. If it is to be emulated the best model could be like the Amul Milk supply and distribution cooperatives practiced in India. But it was discussed that the entire Amul concept should not be recreated here, but an model ideal for Sri Lankan conditions could be established.

In addition to Dr Samarajiva moderating and providing information, presentations were made by Sriganesh Lokanathan, Senior Research Manager, LIRNEasia on ‘Overview of Operatonal agri-info Platform in South Asia and on ‘Information Needs of farmers, Traders and Collectors: Results from 2011 Micro-enterprise Survey; Ms Nilusha Kapugama, Research Manager, LIRNEasia on ‘Learning from Value Chain Studies, Pineapple; Dr Harsha de Silva, MP and Consultant Lead Economist, LIRNEasia and Dr Ms Sujata Gamage, Lead Scientist, LIRNasia. S. Lokanathan, Chairman, LFVPEA led a discussion on knowledge mapping for the Fruit and Vegetable Export Sector.

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