‘Import restrictions should continue as a policy to boost local industries’ | Sunday Observer

‘Import restrictions should continue as a policy to boost local industries’

12 July, 2020

The ongoing limitations on the import of non-essential food items has to continue as a policy to save the drain of valuable foreign exchange from the country,  entrepreneur and Chairman of Mawbima Lanka Foundation, Ariyaseela Wickramanayake said.

In an interview with the Sunday Observer Business, he said Sri Lanka’s economic development model should be agriculture-based instead of one based on importing and selling. With the outbreak of Covid-19, the government restricted the import of many goods including non-essential food items to stabilise the value of the Rupee against the US Dollar. According to the Gazette Extraordinary, issued by the Ministry of Finance on April 16, this import restriction will last until July 15. However, this has now been extended by another six months.

“This is an agriculture based economy. We have to produce by ourselves and any government that comes to power should not obstruct it,” he said. On a recent visit to the Sabaragamuwa University, Wickramanayake had seen noodles made from pumpkin and he said that such innovation and value addition will boost the local food industry, substituting imported food items.

“Did you ever know that people could eat noodles made of pumpkin? This is how we can add value to the same food,” he said. The Managing Director at Pelwatte Dairy Industries, Wickramanayake, now preparing to export ‘Made in Sri Lanka’ butter and milk powder, sees enormous potential to develop the local dairy industry.

“We have 1.3 million cows in Sri Lanka. But we are milking only 240,000. We should look at India and learn how to develop the industry,” he said. “This is not a country where you should be importing food. We should import machinery, but not food. We should stop importing food items. Rice is our staple food. Consuming a little bread is not wrong but we should not make it our staple food,” Wickramanayake said.