By Cheranka Mendis
Ceylon Biscuits Ltd., (CBL) and Akbar Brothers Group last night dominated the Presidential Export Awards ceremony at Temple Trees bagging the most number of honours.
Famous for the flagship “Munchee” brand, CBL won nine main awards including the coveted Sri Lankan Exporter of the Year and Best Sri Lankan Brand of the year at the ceremony which combined annual competitions for the years 2007, 2008 and 2009. President Mahinda Rajapaksa was the chief guest at the awards ceremony whilst Minister of Industry and Commerce Rishad Bathiudeen and Export Development Board Chairman Janaka Ratnayake were also present.
Akbar Brothers together with fully owned subsidiary Quick Tea won eight awards for two years as the Group didn’t apply for the 2007 competition.
CBL was outstanding as all the trophies won were main awards whilst Akbar Group’s tally of eight had two merit certificates.
CBL was also the winner in the category awards for confectionary and bakery products for all three years.
The Best SME in the sector were Linco Enterprises (2007), and Bio Extracts Enterprises Pvt. Ltd. (2008 and 2009). Exporters with the highest contribution to rural development award was won by Sirio Ltd. (2007), Orit Apparels Lanka (2008) and Link Natural Products (2009)
Presidential Export Awards, known as the highest accolade received by the local exporters was on hold for four years and yesterday’s event saw the honouring of key export performers sectorally as well as for special achievements during three years.
Presided by President Mahinda Rajapaksa, the award ceremony was noted as an additional encouragement given to the sector to further their growth and development in support of taking the country towards its targeted goal of achieving USD 15 billion by 2015 and later to expand it to USD 20 billion by 2020.
The export industry which has entered a phase of sustainable growth entering a monthly export figure of US$ 1 billion in March this year will face several challenges in accelerating its augmentation. Minister of industry and Commerce Rishad Bathiudeen addressing the export community commented that the key challenge would be to demonstrate much stringer export growth structure now that the industry has survived a highly volatile global market and three decades of internal crisis. “As we embrace the economic upswing in the global market it is important than ever to showcase a strong growth state in the industry,” Bathiudeen said.
He also noted that all stakeholders in the industry must now pitch in their efforts to improve performance and productivity in both local and international cycles such as in the global product sharing market. “Furthermore going green is not just fashionable it is also profitable. Adopting to green practices in manufacturing and agro sector would be important as it gives a competitive advantage to products in the world market,” he said, “the strength of export development lies on these three factors and how well Sri Lanka adapts to it.”
Bathiudeen noted that the big question today is how well prepared Sri Lanka is to take on a challenge of such a big target. “Sri Lanka needs to firmly focus on collaborative efforts to overcome the challenges,” he said. Departmental coordination between ministries and other bodies as well as single electronic documentation windows system would both increase efficiency and improve productivity. “The export sector would determine the very fate of Sri Lanka in the global market.
Chairman of EDB Janaka Ratnayake, the main man behind this year Export Awards acknowledged that the export industries contribution to GDP is an important one, and one that could open many more successful doors if expanded. He stated that the Board has identified seven key products, namely apparel, tea, rubber, ICT/KPO/BPO, food and beverages, gems and jewellery and spices as products that are bound to expand over the next few years. The rubber, gem and jewellery and food & beverages were noted as the main sectors.
“It has been noted that 50% of services are exported to USA and EU on which the country is overly dependent on. Diversification and going into new regions such as South East Asia and African region has been noted where China, India, Malaysia and Singapore are heavily focused on,” he said. Value addition, ethical manufacturing, eco manufacturing and organic production would help the country in its diversification process. Within the last four months where exports saw a growth of almost 44%; 63% was exported to the EU while 51% went into the USA.
Ratnayake also requested the President to reactivate the ‘Export Development Council of Ministries’ to further strengthen the export sector and provide adequate and speedy solutions to their issues