September 17, 2019
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    Lanka awaits global GAP certification to venture into EU markets Featured

    June 23, 2019

    Sri Lanka will export fresh fruits and vegetables to the European region, after the global accreditation for exports under the Good Agricultural Practices (GAP) and Good Handling Practices (GHP) are awarded to local farmers this year, Assistant Director Agri-business Development, Department of Agriculture, A.S.M. Roshan told journalists during a visit to the Cargills ‘Sarubima Agriculture Modernisation’ project site in Thambuththegama last week.
    He said Sri Lanka Standards auditing authorities are making every effort to obtain the international GAP certification by the end of the year. This will enable the country to export to the European Union, the Middle East and Japan. Sri Lanka exports fruits and vegetables to the Middle East but not to Europe as it is yet to receive global accreditation to export agricultural produce to the EU. “We have not been able to export to certain markets such as the EU as the chemical residue levels in our products are high. The GAP international certification ensures that farmers adhere to proper residue levels in the application of chemical fertiliser, Roshan said.
    GAP and GHP are voluntary audits that verify that fruits and vegetables are produced, packed and handled and stored as safely as possible to minimise risks of microbial contamination. The Sri Lanka GAP is issued by the Audit Department of the Department of Agriculture and is monitored by the Division of the Agri Business Council of the Department of Agriculture
    “The Sri Lanka GAP ensures minimum application of chemicals to crops. Chemicals can be used only under urgent needs and if used it has to be during a 14-day pre-harvesting period. Since a record on the quantity, quality, time of usage, who and how chemical fertilisation was used is being maintained all these details could be traced and if the regulations are breached, the GAP certificate will be made invalid,” the Agriculture Department officer said.
    Traditional agricultural farming will be phased out with the introduction of drip irrigation and fertrigation which has taken off under the Cargills Sarubima Agriculture Moderantation project which commenced cultivation of around 20 low country crops among 80 farmers in Thambuthegama in March this year.
    Since then, Cargills has been providing produce to consumers under the ‘Good for You - Good for the Environment’ logo at its over 300 outlets across the country bearing the Sri Lanka Good Agricultural Practices (SL-GAP) certification. “We launched the agriculture modernisation project in Thambuthegama and Thanamalwila this year and farmers have started to reap the harvest. We will launch the project in Nuwara Eliya, Hanguranketha, Boralanda, Bandarawela and Jaffna shortly,” Group Manager Agri-Business Cargills Ceylon PLC, Haridas Fernando said, adding that the GAP program has helped boost the yield and income of farmers who under conventional farming wasted large amounts of water, fertiliser, time and energy to reap a low yield that did not generate adequate income to sustain their livelihood.

    He said Rs. 31 million has been invested in the agriculture modernisation project where Rs. 15.5 million will be provided by the Cargills Sarubima Fund and the rest by the Cargills Bank as loans at an interest rate of 6.5 percent. Farmers in Thambuththegama said the investment on a one acre land is between Rs. 500,000-600,000, of which half is funded by the Fund and the balance is obtained from Cargills Bank as a loan.
    Nandana Liyanal Premathilake, who has cultivated one-and-a-half acres of egg plants (Vambatu) in Thambuththegama said after following GAP he has been able to reduce the number of workers, fertiliser and the quantity of water, which could be used on other crops to generate more income. “Earlier I had to hire eight to 10 workers to for application of fertiliser and around 20 to weed the field during a season, but now I need only one to help in fertilising and three to weed. By this I have been able to save money and start another plot of cultivation. The mulch takes off the burden of weeds and it reflects light to the bottom of the leaves and as a result there is no need to use much agro chemicals. It also helps maintain the moisture level in the soil. Previously I had to use about 150 bags of fertiliser but now I use only around five and a half for about four months,” Premathilake said.
    Farmers said the use of nets has helped minimise damage to crops by pests. Plastic mulch is a product used to suppress weeds and conserve water in crop production and landscaping. Mulch also acts a barrier to keep methylbromide, a powerful fumigant and ozone depletor, in the soil. Crops grow through slits or holes in the thin plastic sheeting. Plastic mulch is often used with drip irrigation. Research has been done using different colours to affect crop growth.

    Farmers who have adopted drip irrigation said the application of weedicide has dropped by around 70 percent as a result of GAP which has also helped reduce pre and post harvest losses to around 20 percent from 35 to 40 percent. “Earlier when we harvested 1,000 kg about 400 kg was wasted but now it is less than 150 kgs,” Premathilake said. Wimal Dayaratne, a farmer in Thambuththegama said he was able to earn over Rs. 1 million from a half -acre cultivation due to the high-yield farming technique.
    Famers also said they want to increase the supply under GAP and get a better price in the future. They have also seen interest shown by their children and the youth in the area to take up to agriculture as farming under GAP has not only made agricultural farming attractive but also lucrative.
    Cargills Sarubima Fund set up in 2008 in Thanamalwila supports the farming community. For every kilogram of vegetables, fruits and every litre of milk the company sources from farmers it set aside fifty cents to the fund. Cargills sources 120,000 litres of milk a day and 150 tonnes of fruits and vegetables from farmers across the country daily. “My sons have told me that they too want to start cultivation. I want them to study and do better jobs than farming but it is up to them,” A.W.A. Sunila Abeysekera, a melon farmer in Thambuththegama said.

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