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Sri Lanka to open US$3.5mn spice testing lab for exports

Spices were Sri Lanka’s seventh largest export in 2019. Department of Agriculture Photo.

ECONOMYNEXT- Sri Lanka’s Industrial Development Board (IDB), in partnership with multilateral agencies is in the process of installing a 3.5 million US dollar laboratory which will reduce export costs of spices, a United Nations Industrial Development Organization official said.

“Some of the equipment for the food testing lab have already arrived at the IDB, and some training has been provided, but its not yet fully operational,” UNIDO India Field Office Representative Rene van Berkel told EconomyNext in January.

He said the European Union is funding the project.

Once the laboratory is set up, it will reduce shipment rejections for spice exporters, and reduce costs of testing consignments for food safety.

Spices were Sri Lanka’s seventh largest export, with 312.5 million US dollars in revenue for 2019, down 13.2 percent from a year earlier.

A detail assessment was conducted to ascertain the testing capabilities and requirements in Sri Lanka, van Berkel said.

“Previously, exporters had to send samples to Europe or to India for testing.”

IDB had some capacity to test samples, but the most common internationally recognized tests were not available, he said.

“So, we are trying to ensure that the most common tests are possible in Sri Lanka. Some of the very advanced tests would still have to be done elsewhere.”

“But many of the tests are for example, checking on the absence of certain chemicals or bugs.”

He said previously, exporters who did not conduct the proper tests faced shipment rejections in many markets, like Europe.

“So the two alternatives were to spend time sending a sample to test and get its results, or to ship the container and face the possibility of getting rejected.”

“And if the container is rejected, it cannot be imported back, so it becomes waste,” van Berkel said.

The food testing will be available for spices, with a specific focus on cinnamon. Spices in powder or paste form will also be tested. (Colombo/Jan28/2020)

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