Export Impact For Good

Countries / Territories

Country Profile Sri Lanka



    Sri Lanka (formerly Ceylon) is an island in the Indian Ocean situated South and slightly East of the southernmost point of India, separated from that country by the 23 km wide Palk Strait. Including 870 km2 of inland water, Sri Lanka has a total area of 65,610 km2. The climate in Sri Lanka is tropical and monsoonal, but varies from warm in the coastal plains and lowlands to temperate in the hill and mountain regions. 

    Agricultural Sector

    Sri Lanka's economy has traditionally been dominated by agriculture. However, it is presently undergoing diversification as other sectors, such as manufacturing, are also making significant progress. The agriculture sector constituted 17.8% of GDP in 2005 and provided employment to about 38% of the labour force (CIA, 2007). An estimated 1.8 million families  engage in farming. In Sri Lanka, agriculture is dominated by smallholders as over 64 per cent of the farming families cultivate holdings of less than 0.8 hectares. Around 40 per cent of the cultivated area is occupied by plantation crops, tea, rubber and coconut (UNESCAP, 2006). Out of the total land area of 6.5 million hectares 1.5 million (24 %) are recognised as agricultural land; 13.96% of the land is arable, 15.24% is used for permanent crops and 70.8% for other uses (Department of Census & Statistics, 2002).

    Brief overview of organic farming

    According to IFOAM & FiBL (2006), there are 15,215 hectares of land under organic management, with a share of total agricultural land of 0.65% and a presence of around 3,300 organic farms. According to UNESCAP(2006), Sri Lanka is one of the major organic producers in Asia and one of the leading sources of organic tea. The organic market in the country has been described as a "niche market". A number of organic products are increasingly being sold in major supermarkets. The main certified organic products are tea, desiccated coconut, cashew nuts, spices (cinnamon, cardamom, nutmeg, pepper, clove, ginger), fruit (mango, papaya, passion fruit), and herbs (citronella, lemon grass). Most of these organic products are exported. Major importers are Europe, Japan and Australia. No government policy or support system like conversion grants have been adopted so far, but the government officially began to recognise the organic agriculture movement inside the country. In 1999, the Export Development Board initiated a meeting with responsible people involved in growing, trading and research about organic agriculture and discussed the possibilities of increasing smallholders organic spice production in quality and quantity (UNESCAP, 2006). Most recently, the ministry of agriculture has provided 4.5 million rupees (expected to increase in coming years) for starting a project to promote organic farming in the country with an ultimate goal of exporting them after certifying. The Department of Agriculture (DoA)  is expecting to lay out a producer foundation in 10 districts with the help of provincial Departments of Agriculture (DoA).

    Brief overview of key organic products

    Sri Lanka exports organic products such as, tea, cane sugar, coffee, spices, essential oils, herbs, cashew, desiccated coconut, fresh and processed fruits and vegetables, grains, and nuts. There are about dozen of leading companies involved in export of organic tea, coffee and spices. They mainly export the organic products to European Countries and United States of America. The organic tea export from Sri Lanka commenced about 15 years ago by the private sector. Later,  organic agriculture extended to coffee and spice crops too. The development of local quality standards is a long felt necessity as the demand for organic produce is increasing continuously (FAO, 2006).

    The network

    The organic movement in Sri Lanka started in the 1980s through contact and inspiration of local NGOs with the Philippine organic agriculture movement. In 1982 a group of local NGO representatives, planters, scientists and environmental officers had drafted a Memorandum of Association to create a movement named Lanka Organic Agriculture Movement (LOAM). This can be seen as the official starting point for the dissemination of organic agriculture in Sri Lanka. The primary objectives of LOAM were to promote organic agriculture, to establish, improve and maintain standards for organic agriculture and to create awareness of organic products among the people of Sri Lanka. In 2001 LOAM was registered as an official legal body. Activities in the field of organic agriculture continued and evolved to an advanced stage of development, and in particularly two groups can be distinguished as the principal actors of organic agriculture. On the one side organic smallholders who are mainly resource poor farmers linked with NGOs. Some have united in producer co-operatives. On the other side large scale organic plantations managed by private owners or as company projects, sometimes associated with surrounding smallholders. In the field of research and development the Tea Research Institute (TRI) of Sri Lanka has taken steps to incorporate experimental work regarding organic tea production in its activities.


    - CIA FactBook, 31.05.07

    - Department of Agriculture - Government of Sri Lanka

    - Gami Seva Sevana

    - Department of Census & Statistics, 2002 a. Census of Agriculture, Small Holding Sector. Preliminary Release 2, Colombo, Sri Lanka.

    - FAO, 24.10.2006: Key Statistics of Food and Agriculture External Trade. Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations (FAO), Statistics Division. http:// www.fao.org/es/ess/toptrade/trade.asp?dir=exp&country=3&ryear=2004  and http://www.fao.org/es/ess/top/country.html?lang=en 

    - FAS/USDA. (2000). Philippines: Organics Market Brief, 2000. Attache report #RP0015, February 23, 2000, FAS/US Department of Agriculture.

    - FAO, IFOAM, and Earth Net Foundation (2003): Proceedings of the Seminar on the Production and Export of Organic Fruit And Vegetables in Asia.

    - IFOAM & FiBL (2006): The World of Organic Agriculture. Statistics and Emerging Trends 2006. International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements (IFOAM), Bonn & Research Institute of Organic Agriculture FiBL, Frick, pp. 108-117.

    - UNESCAP (2006)

    - Williges, U. (2004): Status of organic agriculture in Sri Lanka with special emphasis on tea production systems (Camellia Sinensis (L.) O. Kuntze). Dissertation.

    - Yussefi, Minou and Willer, Helga, Eds. (2003): The World of Organic Agriculture, Statistics and Future Prospects. Foundation Ecology and Agriculture, Germany and International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements.