CIC Agri Businesses leads the way in building this awareness, identifying the problems in the local eating habits and working on solutions which ensure a healthier nation.
In this regard, Waruna Madawanarachchi, Chief Executive Officer for Crops and Livestock for CIC Agri Businesses is a strong proponent for a positive change, and sees it as the natural progression for a company that has been at the forefront of the development of the national agricultural sector.
“CIC Agri Businesses is involved in the total value chain, from research and development to laboratory services, advisory services, agriculture education and consultancy, improved input services which include machinery, equipment and technology, production of agricultural commodities, agro processing of rice, fruits and vegetables, milk etc., as well as some benchmark retailing and exports,” said Madawanarachchi.
For the next 10 years, the company expects to venture into the food sector, to meet the demands of the growing service industry and the need for quality food.
A lot of the success of CIC Agri Businesses can be attributed to its unique and innovative way of conducting the business of agriculture, which is designed to foster sustainable growth.
“Our production model that we have been using with great success is one with a nucleus farm with a set of growers around it. At the farm, we impart knowledge on things such as development in growing and farming technology and livestock care, conduct demonstrations on the use of the technology and sign buy-back agreements with the same farmers.
"This model has already worked for our agricultural commodities such as rice, corn and milk, because the farmers have a tendency to implement things in which they believe in and can observe the success for themselves.”
However, one of main issues facing the growth of this model is the limited amount of arable land available in the country. From the approximately two million hectares available for agriculture, about 700,000 hectares are used for paddy production and another bulk of land is reserved for the production of plantation crops such as tea, rubber and coconut and permanent crops such as clove and cinnamon.
“Once all of this land is blocked, the land available for annual crops such as corn, sugar, vegetables and milk is extremely limited, and the only solution is to increase productivity of these crops,” Madawanarachchi elaborates.
“We believe that today?s research is tomorrow?s technology, and it is the reason we concentrate and emphasise on our own research and development. Our R&D team consists of experts such as the former director of the Rice Research Institute and the former director of the Tea Research Institute who generate the latest agricultural technological developments.”
One such example of the kind of innovation developed by CIC Agri is the product of Red Basmati rice which has a low glycaemic index, meaning that it releases the sugar slowly, making it a healthier option.
Madawanarachchi observes that the problem with Sri Lanka’s agriculture industry is that there is a large number of small scale holdings scattered all over the country, and local production is typified by gluts and leans due to the two- harvest system and seasonal production.
“The culture of producing specific amounts for specific markets has to be encouraged and developed in this country. But, we also have to get into the habit of producing in the off-season, for which the relevant technology needs to be provided. CIC Agri Businesses encourage any farmer willing to put in the work to grow produce in the off season by providing the resources, technology and information required.”
“When properly planned, ‘protected agriculture’ produce some of the best material which is of a higher quality because of the least amount of exposure to the elements and external factors, and can be sold in high-end supermarkets and even exported. With tourist arrivals on the rise, I believe there is a significant market for quality produce in the off-seasons, and opportunity that is yet to be completely exploited.”