Sri Lanka’s Minister of Industry and Commerce Rishad Bathiudeen has given instructions to the abolish its long practiced, slow export clearance timeline on its Ceylon black pepper exports and expedite the process. Minister Bathiudeen meeting with the members of Spices and Allied Products Producers’ and Traders’ Association (SAPPTA) of Sri Lanka on Thursday (25) said the pilot initiative is taken to strengthen the reputation of Ceylon Black Pepper as well as to support the committed spice exporters. SAPPTA representatives voicing that the black pepper flowing in the direction of Sri Lanka from other foreign sources have greatly impacted the reputation of Ceylon Black Pepper called for immediate attention of the Minister on foreign peppers being mixed to Sri Lankan peppers, which is of higher quality. Chairman of SAPPTA Vernon Abeyratne said the pepper exports of some Lankan companies such as his firm are of EU Standards and pointed out that mixing of low quality foreign pepper with Sri Lanka’s high quality pepper is possible at a different stage of shipping and it is out of their control.
“As a result we passed a resolution calling for the ban of foreign pepper coming to Sri Lanka or impose licensing for such inferior imports to ensure low quality, pesticide ridden stocks do not land here,” the Chairman of SAPPTA said. The association pointed out that the slow Pre-shipment process of their domestic pepper exports is an additional issue that prevents their competitiveness on such inferior quality trans-shipments. “Indian authorities have imposed a Minimum Import Price for pepper imports to protect their growers due to inferior pepper leaving from countries such as Sri Lanka which is beyond our control,” the representative of SAPPTA noted. Responding to the concerns of the exporters, the Minister said with immediate effect he will order Department of Commerce (DoC) to process black pepper export applications within 48 hours instead of 1-2 weeks as done at present. The Minister said he will also enlist the Consumer Affairs Authority (CAA) under his Ministry and its 400 investigation officers with immediate effect to strengthen the DOC’s capacity to conduct investigations prior to issuance of black pepper Certificates of Origin (CoO). The CAA will handle quality inspection of black pepper packed for export.
“All pepper exporters should submit their export license to DoC with their application so that we can assure organic, high quality of our pepper to global markets. DoC is hereby instructed to inform CAA within 24 hours of receiving each pepper export application so that inspections are promptly completed on location,” the Minister told the exporters. Minister Bathiudeen said he is planning to lead a Lankan spice delegation to India next month to resolve any pending pepper and spice export issues and optimistic of a positive outcome and invited the members of SAPPTA to join him.”Pepper exports to India are taking place under South Asian Free Trade Area (SAFTA) and we thank the Government of India for allowing this facility to us where we need to pay only 8% import tariff, and “zero duty” under pepper exported through Indo-Sri Lanka Free Trade Agreement at that end, due to our high quality. Indian consideration to us is a great support for our pepper sector,” he said.
Black pepper produced in Sri Lanka has no pesticides and is organically grown, and has larger content of piperine – a substance highly used in medicinal, dietary and flavoring applications. Therefore, Sri Lanka finds that international demand for Lankan pepper cannot be satisfied easily and as a result domestic production has also increased with the support of the government. Member firms of SAPPTA handle exports of no less than 30 spice product-lines. In 2016, Sri Lanka’s spice exports totaled $ 264 million, and black pepper exports were at $ 72 million (declining from 2015’s $ 144 million). The total black pepper production of 17,000 Metric Tons (MT) in 2012 surged to 18,660 MT in 2014 and has peaked to a huge 25,995 MT by 2017. Annual local household consumption ranges from 5,800 MT to 6,000 MT and in 2016, the industrial consumption was at 5,312 MT. In 2012, for the first time Ceylon pepper overtook Ceylon cloves to become the second largest spice export of Sri Lanka – the leading spice export being Ceylon Cinnamon.