CHOGM – 13 and Spice

Sri Lanka – November 2013

CHOGM–2013 held in Sri Lanka during the month of November has concluded. The Spice Journal team was in attendance at many of the CHOGM functions, and has reflected on how this august gathering of world government officials and business persons may have influenced the revitalization of the spice industry in Sri Lanka.

The worldwide spice industry is valued at more than US$100,000,000,000 annually and although Sri Lanka is a cradle of the ancient spice trade, the value of their current spice exports is a mere US$265,000,000.

The history of Sri Lanka and the history of spice are so interwoven that one might wonder whether Sri Lanka was discovered because of spice, or whether spice was discovered because of Sri Lanka. In fact it is conspicuous that with such a glorious history in spice, with the best climate in the world, and with an abundance of arable land, that Sri Lanka is not the number one spice producing country.

The Ministry of Minor Export Crop Promotion is very much cognizant of this irony and over one year ago it commissioned a nationwide committee to ascertain how the spice industry can best be revitalized. Although the final report has not been released, there were snippets of the committee’s recommendations announced during CHOGM. The most prominent news being a seven year plan to increase spice exports to $1,000,000,000 annually by 2020.

Anyone attending the Commonwealth gathering will realize that to meet this ambitious goal considerable investment is required, and therefor investors will be following this development with interest. Likewise the learned delegates would know that to achieve these numbers, a stringent regime of certification will need to be implemented to satisfy the import requirements of the international food industry. Therefor Sri Lanka’s seven year plan will be welcome news to international importers and consumers.

In parallel with the CHOGM gathering, the Ministry of Economic Development organized an Exhibition of Trade, Tourism, and Investment, which attracted 800 exhibitors and 1065 (mostly international) delegates. The spice industry was well represented at this exhibition with more than 100 Spice and Ayurveda companies displaying their products. It was an excellent forum for the spice people of Sri Lanka.

In addition to the exhibitors, trade delegates, and buyers, the exhibition was open to the public for a few days. During those “everyone welcome” days it was notable that large groups of young people including university students and school children, attended the exposition. It was noticed by The Spice Journal team that many of these young people lingered around the Spice and Ayurveda stalls, perhaps more aware of their glorious heritage in spice than many of us would have realized.

An unfortunately fact is that there is a severe shortage of farming people involved in the spice industry, therefor this exhibition of exquisite spices and spice products proudly displayed, attended by a multitude of international visitors, and keenly observed by the young people of Sri Lanka, must have been gratifying to the stake holders. The hope of course is that many of those young people, appreciating their spice heritage, will consider the prospects of a rewarding future in the industry, either in Spice or in one of the derivatives like Natural Medicine.

The Spice Journal has therefor concluded that CHOGM will have considerable impact on the importance of the spice industry in Sri Lanka.