Sri Lanka needs to reduce non-tariff barriers to boost agri exports

ECONOMYNEXT –Sri Lanka needs to reduce non-tariff barriers (NTBs) to increase agricultural exports which are significant in expanding exports as they account for almost a quarter of total exports, trade experts said.
 
Verité Research, a think-tank, said regulations can become NTBs that hinder exports.

In partnership with the Lanka Fruit & Vegetable Producers, Processors and Exporters Association (LFVPPEA), Verité Research held a roundtable discussion on “Boosting Agri Exports: Reducing Domestic NTB’s" at the Ceylon Chamber of Commerce.

The discussion brought together a wide range of stakeholders from both private sector and government involved in the process of agricultural trade in Sri Lanka, a statement said.

Verité Research presented the findings of a study on the importance of regulations in agricultural trade in Sri Lanka.

“These regulations protect human, plant and animal health and ensurethe quality of imports and exports,” the statement said.

“However, when communication and implementation to private sector stakeholders is weak, these regulations can become non-tariff barriers. In such instances, the objectives of ensuring safety and quality are compromised.

“Additionally, such factors discourage legitimate trade and increases the circumvention of trade outside regulated channels.”

Sri Lanka’s ambitious target of export earnings of US$30 billion by 2020 cannot be achieved solely through the negotiation of Free Trade Agreements (FTAs), it said.

“Agricultural exports account for 23% of total exports and have a significant role to play in this regard. At present, the sector is dominated by traditional commodities such as tea, coconuts, and spices, which account for 83% of total agricultural exports. There is untapped export potential within agriculture in sectors such as fruit, vegetables, seafood and floriculture.”

Reducing domestic NTBs is a relatively easy but significant step towards encouraging diversification into such sectors, where high transaction costs have acute implications on export competitiveness, Verité Research said.

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It proposes short term and medium term measures to improve the facilitation of trade through regulation. Some of the recommendations are also reflected in Budget 2017.

One of the key concerns raised was the need for regular dialogue between private sector and government officials to discuss specific issues.

Further, the need for monitoring of progress in implementing reforms to address them was also identified.

The discussion concluded with a commitment from different subsectors to form a joint public-private sector committee with the facilitation of the Export Development Board to meet at regular intervals and address industry issues.
(COLOMBO, Dec 16, 2016)
 

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