- As demand from Pakistan reduces, Minister proposes diversifying crops
- Says not the right time to focus on cannabis exports
By Ashwin Hemmathagama
– Our Lobby Correspondent
High yield and the increased numbers of farmers starting to grow betel leaves have reduced the demand for Sri Lankan betel leaves in Pakistan, Minister of Primary Industries and Social Empowerment Daya Gamage told Parliament yesterday, highlighting the importance of diversifying the export crops.
The betel leaf exports, which stood at Rs. 576.1 million in 2010 has gone up gradually over the years to Rs. 3,164.1 million in 2017. According to Minister Gamage, the 52-day constitutional crisis had an adverse impact on betel leaf exports. If there was no political instability, Sri Lanka could have earned more than Rs. 2,615.72 million in betel exports in 2018, he said.
The Minister, commenting on the reduced market demand for betel leaves after the number of farmers grew by 25,000, said: “Pakistan is the only export market for our betel leaves. It is said that a new tax has been enforced over betel leaves from Sri Lanka. We will be able to remove this. However, we are unable to promote betel leaves in Sri Lanka due to health reasons.”
“The price is determined by market forces. We need to provide an additional income to those who rely 100% on betel leaf income by introducing other crops. We are currently exporting jujubes and mosquito coils for a start. Cannabis is a medicinal drug cultivated in Canada, the US and Thailand. But this is not the right moment to start growing cannabis in Sri Lanka,” he explained.