Amidst intensifying discussions on the possibilities of exporting hemp – a type of cannabis plant – to the international market, an official from the Export Development Board (EDB) stated that Sri Lanka should try other export avenues rather than focusing on “something that is not possible”.
Speaking to The Sunday Morning Business, the aforementioned official stated that firstly, Sri Lanka would have to legalise cannabis in the country, then grow, harvest, and even build a zone or adequate hub if it is to start exporting, which is not practical.
“With the present legalisation, growing and exporting cannabis is going to be a complicated process, which will be very difficult to implement. Therefore, we need to look at what’s practical, what’s good for the country, discover markets, and more importantly, improve the quantity and the quality of our exports. If we can sort out these issues, we can improve quite a bit in our export market,” he said.
However, he added that measures would not immediately be taken to legalise and start the exportation of cannabis, as there were other avenues available to grow the export sector.
He recently told us that there is also a need to explore niche markets with an aim of diversifying the product basket and markets. Clarifying, he stressed that there is an abundance of opportunities available to explore in the agricultural sector.
“We have spoken about expanding the export basket for about 20 years. But this is the best opportunity we have ever had, since there is a huge trade shift going on. People are looking for different markets and products. Sri Lanka is in a fantastic position, and our opportunities with agriculture are enormous,” he noted.
Elaborating on the agricultural sector, he said that prior to Covid-19, there was a lack of management and technological infrastructure to handle fruits and vegetables, which is why he said there is a huge opportunity that could be sought in areas such as plucking, handling, storage, freezing, dehydration, packing, branding, and marketing of the products to international countries.
He also emphasised that the present moment presents the perfect opportunity, which should be taken by export companies, given the pandemic period, where globally, consumers are much more concerned and cautious about eating healthy.
“People in the world are lining up to support us. Globally, there is an increase in consumption of healthy food, and fortunately, Sri Lanka has an abundance of it. Right now, the EDB is helping companies to brand, market, and gain exposure in the international market,” the official added.
Meanwhile, speaking on this topic at an earlier date, Minister of Trade Dr. Bandula Gunawardana told The Sunday Morning Business that Sri Lanka could earn a higher return on export proceeds if an initiative is taken by the local industry to export cannabis to the international market.
Expressing his concern, he stated that even though Sri Lanka has the potential to earn a higher revenue in dollars for cannabis exports, no one was initiating a dialogue, as they were “restricted within their own religious and cultural barriers”.
“It was the British who banned cannabis, as they could not face the strength of the Sri Lankans. But it is an unfortunate situation today, as people should start changing their opinion in this modern world,” Dr. Gunawardana said.
Explaining further, he emphasised that scientists proved that cannabis can be used as a cure for cancer treatments, and for other medical purposes, which is why Sri Lanka could also look at the positive perspective and start exporting cannabis to the international market, as it could generate forex during this time of need.
Expressing similar views while speaking in Parliament last Tuesday (16), Samagi Jana Balawegaya (SJB) MP Diana Gamage stated that Sri Lanka has been blessed with cannabis, which the country should now start growing extensively and exporting in order to bring up the economy.
“A lot of African countries have started exporting tea. Everyone wants to do the tea business, whereas Sri Lanka has also been blessed by the gods with an all-natural treatment called cannabis. Cannabis is easily cultivable, and with this, our economy can be sustained. This is a very good way to bring our economy back up; we should consider exporting it,” said Gamage.