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Monday June 21st, 2021

Sri Lanka agricultural exports still subject to war-era checks

ECONOMYNEXT – Air Force checks on export shipments introduced during Sri Lanka’s ethnic war, which ended in 2009, are still continuing despite other security measures being removed or reduced, imposing unnecessary difficulties on exporters, according to a study of export competitiveness.

Physical inspection procedures at the main Bandaranaike International Airport (BIA) at Katunayake not only cause create delays but can also reduce the quality of exported products, said the study by Verité Research, a private think-tank, of difficulties faced by Sri Lankan agriculture exporters.

Perishable products such as fruit, vegetables, cut flowers and foliage, and live fish are exported by air.

“The physical inspection procedure at BIA, which is designed to ensure export compliance with regulatory requirements, creates unnecessary delays and compromises the quality and safety of exported products,” it said.

It gave as a case study checks by the Sri Lanka Air Force which stops and inspects all lorries entering the airport premises just before entry and.

“This is a security checkpoint that was put in place during the war (before 2009). Although most of the security checkpoints were removed after the end of war, this checkpoint continues to function to this date,” the study said.

Physical inspection is conducted in open-air areas and without temperature control which can damage export products, as they expose perishable goods to not just heat, but also aerial contamination.

“To preserve quality and extend shelf life, certain perishable products are pre-cooled for several hours prior to packing for export. At present, boxes carrying pre-cooled products are opened several times by multiple authorities during inspection, exposing the products to heat and compromising their quality,” the study said.

“Temperature is a critical determinant of the quality and shelf life of perishable exports. Exposure to high temperatures post-harvest compromises the quality of agricultural produce resulting in decay, wilting, shrivelling and loss of water.”

The Air Force checkpoint requires exporters to leave an aisle in the middle of the lorry for an Air Force officer to walk inside and inspect the cargo.

According to some exporters, this reduces the loading capacity of the lorry to only 80% and therefore increases the cost of transport, the study said.

A further consequence of leaving an aisle in the lorry is the toppling of boxes during transportation, which causes damage to cargo.

Verité Research said there were remedial measures that could be adopted as done by other countries.

“The ability to profile the risk of non-compliance of a shipment with regulations and introduce mitigatory measures proportional to the level of risk can help reduce the frequency of physical inspections,” it said.

For example, in the UK, the Import Risk Assessment System assigns each consignment to a risk category with only consignments categorised as high risk subject to 100% inspection.

Medium risk categories are inspected on a case-by-case basis, while low risk categories are cleared without any inspection.
(COLOMBO, June 26, 2017)


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