Posted by: Mahdi Ebrahimi | March 26, 2008

Development of Organic Agriculture Sector in Sri Lanka

Organic production has considerable potential in our agriculture sector in Sri Lanka. However, the term organic has been widely misused in Sri Lanka without having very clear understanding about it. Ecological farming systems, applying compost on crops, natural home garden practices, neglecting lands without applying natural and artificial inputs can not be defined or termed as organic. Organic chemistry has no direct relationship with organic agriculture. Organic is a kind of labelling system that is granted for ecological production when the whole process is certified by an accredited third party organization.

Economy of our country is mainly based on agriculture. We have a higher degree of biodiversity among most of the developing countries and we are blessed with nature gifted most suitable climatic conditions for having sustainable natural agriculture systems. The agriculture practices that have been carried out for many years with indigenous knowledge of our traditional farmers have contributed tremendously for the development of sustainable agriculture in Sri Lanka. Many well balanced eco systems including the Kandyan forest garden system play major role in protecting environment and maintain biodiversity in many parts of our beautiful island. Once these ecological farming practices are tuned to follow an efficient management system, such lands can be inspected and certified as organic according to international standards with shorter period of in-conversion at a lower cost. Without a third party guarantee on the compliance of set international standards on organic production methods, a product cannot be labelled, termed or called as organic.

We are more health conscious than ever before and therefore we seek safe and healthy food. Organic food is the safer, healthier and as a result the demand for organic food is ever growing. As an example, United States of America, Canada, are having rapidly growing Organic Food markets reporting around 20% annual growth. In addition to that, European Union rate of growth on Organic Food market is averaging 7.8% per year. Other than that Japan, New Zealand, Australia are having relatively small markets for organic Foods but still blooming.

Organic is environmentally friendly, culturally sensitive, socially just and economically viable sustainable agricultural system that maintains an efficient management system. All the organic production methods are monitored by Inspection and Certification Bodies (ICB) that are accredited by EN 45004/45011 or ISO 65. Most of developed countries have set up the minimum requirements as organic regulation and therefore products are checked at customs with relevant documentary proofs to support the claim the product as organic. These regulations are formulated based on guidelines or basic standards provided by International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements (IFOAM) and Codex Alimentarius. An ICB being private or Government affiliated organization sets its own standards satisfying the minimum requirements stipulated by the EU or the country regulations. An Inspector visits the project audits whether the organic practices followed by a licensee or a new applicant complies with standards set by the same ICB. The ICB evaluates the compliance of the findings of the inspector with its own standards and based on satisfactory levels of compliance, a certification is granted for the products to be called organic.

A few international ICBs such as Control Union of The Netherlands, IMO of Switzerland, NASAA of Australia, Ecocert of France and Soil Association of UK are actively involved in organic inspection and certification in Sri Lanka. Certified organic products are mainly exported to Europe under EU regulation of EEC 2092/91, USA under NOP, Switzerland under Biosuisse, Australia under NASAA and Japan under JAS by limited number of exporters in Sri Lanka.

The council of EU on organic production and labelling has been changed since 28th of June 2007, but it has raised some important questions such as acceptance of group certification of small organic farmers and how the approval of certification bodies in Third countries is granted by a central body. NOP of USA has recently created a very serious problem in small farmer group certification by requesting international inspectors to visit all individual farmers separately instead of visiting 10% to 15% randomly from the whole group. ISO 62 has been recommended for selecting number of small organic farmers under small farmer group certification to EU committee but it has not yet been officially accepted.

New EU Laws Set to Boost Organic Sales

Europe’s organic market will face a new regulation on organic production and Labeling as of January 1, 2009. The regulation, issued by the European Commission as Regulation (EC) 83/2007, is expected to boost the organic market.

The new regulation replaces and orders one that set the standard for organic production in the European Union since 1991. The old one, Regulation (EEC) 2092/91, has been amended more than thirty times since its adoption, so the EC decided it’s time for new and clearer legislation.

The term organic products cover agricultural crops or food products produced according to strict requirements laid down for organic production. For instance, organic producers may not use chemical pesticides and synthetic fertilizers. Since the EU market for organic products has been growing steadily for a decade and prices in the organic sector are generally higher than those of conventional products, it is an interesting market for exporters in developing countries (DCs). Throughout Europe both consumers and governments are paying more attention to best environmental practices, biodiversity, the preservation of natural resources and the application of high animal welfare standards. The health trend is another growth driver.

What’s new?

The objective of the new Regulation is to simplify the rules for both consumers and producers, to contribute to transparency and consumer confidence and to help create a clear and harmonized image for organic production. The new regulation will focus on clearer and more explicit definitions of the objectives and principles of organic production rather than on technical requirements. The most important change compared to current legislation is that under the new regulation the use of the EU logo for organic products produced within the EU will become compulsory. National or private logos will still be allowed, but only to accompany the EU logo on a voluntary basis. Al products carrying the EU logo must also bear a label that says where the products were farmed.

Once the EU logo is compulsory for organic products produced within the EU, it is likely that more consumers will be familiar with it and therefore willing to buy products carrying the logo, regardless of where they have been produced. Exporters from DCs therefore may benefit from the logo.

New import regime

The new regulation will also bring in a new permanent import regime, allowing DCs to export to the EU market under the same or equivalent conditions as EU producers. To avoid differences in interpretation and procedures within the different member states, the EC will give a list of control authorities and control bodies the task of monitoring controls and certification in third counties. This will probably make it a lot easier for DC exporters to gain access to EU markets with organic products.

Importation of goods marked or labelled organic is controlled presently under 3 systems to European Union as follows. Importers in EU have to apply for an import authorization concerning importing organic products.

1) Country of origin of the producer has to be in the European Union and direct official admission is valid for member countries.

2) Non EU-member states which have provided evidence that the production methods and inspection measures in the Third country are equivalent to rules of council regulation, can be admitted in to the Third Country Register under EEC no. 94/92. At present seven countries, namely Argentina, Australia, Israel, Check Republic, Hungary, Switzerland and India have entered in to this list.

New countries recently joined EU will be officially removed from the list later on. Once a country is enlisted under Third country register, direct official admission is valid similar to member of EU. Local inspections bodies can be established in the listed country and as a result the heavy cost for international inspection can be eliminated.

3) Member state authorization of products (importer derogation)

Council Regulation (EEC) No 2083/92 amended the Regulation to enable the Government Authority with jurisdiction over organic standards in an EU Member State to authorize an importer to import products from a country like Sri Lanka which is not included in the Article 11 list. The provision is commonly referred to as the “importer derogation”. In order for imports to be approved under this method, the importer must furnish the Member State with sufficient evidence to show that:

* The imported product was produced according to organic production rules equivalent to EU standards.

* The imported product was subject to inspection measures equivalent to EU inspection requirements.

* The inspection measures will be permanently and effectively applied (Council Regulation (EEC) No 2092/91, Art. 11 par. 6, as amended); and

* The certification body operates in compliance with ISO/IEC Guide 65.

Each importer must obtain a separate authorization for each imported product. If an importer imports the same product from different countries or with certifications from different certifiers in the same country, a separate authorization must be obtained for each at a cost.

This process to license the importer to import a particular product from a particular country not on the Article 11 list is the responsibility of individual Member States, not the responsibility of the Commission. Member States and even regional authorities implement this provision differently with respect to the nature of the evidence that must be supplied. For specific information, it is required to contact the Member States.

The majority of products currently entering the EU are imported through the Member State Authorization and not from countries on the Article 11 list.

Why organic production is important to Sri Lanka.

The basic value addition by converting products from conventional or ecological varies from 30% to more than 100% depending on the product. Sri Lanka as a country with full of natural resources has a big potential to fulfil the considerable portion of ever-growing market demand for organic products in the World. Our capacity in supplying various products already grown under ecological systems for years after the conversion within shorter period of time is very high. The value addition of tea from year 1998 to 2001 purely due to the organic labelling is equivalent to the additional production of about one million kgs of conventional teas. This is definitely an encouraging indication to any Government to support Organic Sector. This target has been achieved by few organic companies with their individual effort made for many years. The Export Development Board of Sri Lanka has immensely assisted to promote organic sector in Sri Lanka by assisting the private sector to seek new markets for organic products. Some of the other Government institutes have recently launched programmes to identify the potential areas and producer groups for organic agriculture.

Other than this direct financial benefit gained from organic exports, the protection of environment has become a major indirect contributory factor of organic agriculture. The favourable influence of organic agriculture on environment protection and human health on long-term basis has not yet been scientifically evaluated in order to add economic value to organic products. Water resources and tanks are contaminated with higher level of heavy metals and Nitrates that has already created serious health problem to our community and it will continue. Government spends huge amount on subsidy of chemical fertilizers from one side and bear huge cost on health care from the other side. Disposal of litter from large scale animal husbandry units has become a costly and troublesome affair and the same litter can be easily converted to nitrogen-rich soil input and that could replace imported synthetic nitrogen fertilizers resulting in saving some foreign exchange to our country. The same can also be used in organic production when the conversion is done according to organic standards. However extreme care must be taken to prevent the contamination of heavy metal and clinical waste when urban waste is converted as soil inputs for the use in conventional agriculture. The relationship between artificial chemical usage in agriculture on the increase number of kidney patients and other health related problems in many areas has become an interesting topic to be researched.

Contribution from academics, researchers, scientist and other professionals in the respective fields has become essential in order to educate producers and consumers about the negative impact of usage of hazardous chemicals in incorrect manner during farming and processing on human health. This will anyway help to reduce the damages done for farming community in the long run. The investment required in the future to clean our soil and water resources will be very significant. Environment polluted by us today for our short term benefit will have to be restored by our next generation at their cost for their survival in the future. Therefore it is logical that the cost for cleaning the environment needed in the future has to be added to the cost of conventional production.

Promotion of organic agriculture minimizes the health problems and also results in no capital investment to clean the environment. In addition, possibilities are there for our conventional products exported to developed countries to get rejected as the maximum residue limits (MRL) and heavy metal contamination in food are higher than those of ever-reducing allowable levels in the importing countries as a result of unmethodical and heavy chemical application.

Organic labeling needs international certification for Sri Lankan products. However, the cost of international inspection attributes extra overhead cost to the cost of production and therefore measures taken to reduce COP have become a necessity. Government direct involvement in setting up a mechanism to promote organic agriculture has become a compulsory issue in order to safeguard the interest of exporters who are involved in an internationally competitive organic trade as well as the producers in the organic sector. A long-term professional approach will help to generate more foreign exchange while our environment is being protected. This will also lead to maintain a sustainable development of the rural sector in Sri Lanka.

It is important that an institute to promote organic agriculture be established with the contribution of all stakeholders in the organic field. Government involvement is more important in making policy and finding a most suitable mechanism to implement them.

Some of the main activities listed there, are setting up local certification procedures under third country registry, policy making & implementation, registration of Inspection Bodies, registration of exporters and local parties involved in organic sales, issuance of renewable permit for local sales, penalizing fraudulent sellers, introducing a common seal for certified organic products in Sri Lanka, rendering assistance to organic & health shops, rendering assistance from media to promote organic export, setting up of Internal Control System for local inspection, register all training institutes and setting up organic export villages. However it is evident that some of the above activities have been already started separately by different institutions.

It is also imperative to draw up a plan for Sri Lanka to get the recognition and equivalent status for local certification or to enter into the Third Country Registry enabling local inspection bodies to certify products as organic which will be accepted by any international community.

For that, initially the guidelines or basic standards on organic production need to be set by a standard committee and then based on basic guidelines, the country regulation for organic production has to be established by a Government Standard setting institute. Qualified private organizations must set their own standards adhering to country regulation that are accepted by a quality management system for organic inspection and certification.

Training inspectors on organic standards has become compulsory when organic standards are set only. Generic training can be done by many institutes but standards-specific training needed for internationally accepted inspection system cannot be handled without the support of professionals.

Changing basic standards that leads to regulation changes in the country needs to be handled by group of experts officially nominated as the members of the standard committee by the organic promotion institute or regulatory institute. However, the adhering to the sequence of operation or procedures is very important in order to respect international standards and to gain the international recognition for our local inspection & certifications. It is clearly seen that many events happens today without much professional guidance and this will not lead to achieve our country goals in setting local bodies for the same.

Once all aspects fall in line it will result in eliminating higher cost of inspection and certification carried out by international inspection bodies. The present situation has curtailed the development of organic agriculture among small farmer groups in the rural areas in Sri Lanka. Recognized local certification system will also enable our producers and exporters to offer organic products at competitive prices in international markets. The main benefit from lower certification cost could be transferred to the farming community by giving them reasonable higher prices against conventional market prices along with the forward contracts.

In addition to these aspects, organic food production for local market will result in generating a healthier community in Sri Lanka. Immediate regulation should be imposed to monitor the products sold under the term of organic in order to protect the credibility of genuine organic producers and to safeguard the interest of organic consumers. Therefore, the Government of Sri Lanka should take the initiative like our neighboring countries for the promotion of organic agriculture in Sri Lanka.




  1. plese contact us

  2. I am happy to see this page. We are National centre for Organic Agriculture established under the University of Peradeniya. We are encourage Sri Lankan farmers to grow their products in Organic manner.
    We are searching the application and procedures to get third country registration with EU. If you can please help us to locate the necessary forms and etc very much appriciated.


    • i would like to make a contact with you to get about some information
      I’m student of faculty of agriculture ,university of peradeniya

  3. I’m a member of”student movement for ecological agriculture” also undergraduate of university of peradeniya, faculty of agriculture i like thank all of you because you are going to do very essential work to our country sri lanka

    • You are welcome Dear Friend

      i wish you enjoy from my posts.
      i have two active organic developer friend from Sri lanka

      Mahdi Ebrahimi

      • We are trying to contact the National Centre for Organic Agriculture Sri Lanka. Their website is not working. There is no address or phone number of email id.
        Please supply.

      • Dear Claude,

        here is phone and address:

        Telephone: +94 60 299 8382 Fax: +94 81 238 8318

        Directors email:
        General email: info@ncoa.lkT

        Postal: PO Box 55, Old Galaha Road, Peradeniya 20400,

      • if you can help to meet your friend who are developing organic agriculture in sri lanka it will very helpful to our society

  4. I am an American who owns a Organic Farm here near Bowatta, and I beleive the more people continue to use the chemicals, especially in Rice production, the more serious health problems will continue in this nation. Look at Sri Lanka in comparisson to US/UK, diseases and birth defects that were erradicted one hundred years ago are present in Sri Lanka today, and health benefits and care are minimal at best to treat such epedemics if outbreaks were unleashed.

    Another concern is the actual certifications! International certification alone actually means nothing unles a actual inspection and progress report with soil sample are conducted, and crop rotaion is mandatory. If you want to really be an organic farmer, and provide data as such, you need to follow a prescribed method similar to USA.

    I am sorry to say, all others are just farces and fronts for unvalidated procedures. I was swiss certified 5-years ago, and noone ever did a soil test, or crop test, except that I sign a contract that stated I wouldn’t use all these bad checmical, but way too many people deceive, and I attempted to meet with organic professor at the University, but they don’t have time for the truth, or do they want /care about it neither. I had a good friend (Professor) from a large University come to meet with them, but they didn’t have or desire to make time.

    I as an American now just do my own organic farming and will eventually get a USA certification, and just use Sri Lanka now as a planting ground and sending my crop production funds home to USA because I understand the government nor the people actually care or want to change.

    It is ashame to see what could be a nice place, but with a total lack of EPA and Clean Air foundations, and a government that is self-conceited, and people who only look out for self and not the poor or widowed/orphaned, it is a lost land similar to Bangledash.

    Best Luck to the Sri Lankan people, and hopefully they will someday understand what the Creator God had in plan for his people and the land they have dominion over…

    • Dear Sir,
      I am interesting in organic farms.Could I visit your farm

    • as university student in sri lanka(member of society for ecological agriculture,faculty of agriculture,peradeniya)like to join and make a close relationship with you sir

    • i like to join wiyh you

  5. Good article, as loving Sri Lankan I would like to join with organic food product farmers, need more information

  6. I started organic farm last year . production is poor . but my cowdone supplyer also advised me to use urea . I am not happy to use his system. I mixed GARBAGE and cowdone. Then, my project got sucessus and plant colour is very green. The problam is collecting the garbag. As the people are not happy to give garbege to me but, they are throw it to the nabours land or to the road side. My personal viwe is Organic farming good to claen the enviarment in Sri Lanka.

    • Dear Bambarendage,

      i hope you can achieve your goal as fast as possible. your proposal is so environmentally friendly.

    • I’m very keen on organic agriculture. how can i get started? Namaska Senanayake
      +94 71 6606 228

    • Dear Amith

      I’m sure we could do a lot together.

      Pls contact me.

      Namaska Senanayake
      +94 71 6606 228

  7. Can we get the email id or phone numbers of the National Centre for Organic Agriculture Sri Lanka?

    • phone number 0812998382
      e mail
      web w w w for ecological agriculture if you need more detail on organic agriculture contact me 0714673557

  8. Dear sir/Madam,
    I like Srilanka very much because of its rich flora and fauna. The enviro friendly country in south asia. Organic Farming is not an Alternate for Hazardous Chemical Farming. Natural Farming is the Only Solution for Agri Development and Ecological Development. Please instruct your people for Natural Farming to Use Your Local Deshi Cow’s(Bos Indicus) Urine, fresh Dung, Pulses Flour/Jaggery and handful of soil from the bund. This method commonly spread in India found by Shri. Subhash Palekarji. I am a Farmer to utilise the Technic of Zero Budget of Natural Farming for the past 2 Years. Tremendous Positive response for agri yield compare with Chemical Farming and Organic Farming. The Agri proceeds are Poisonless, No Cost, Water Saving, Labour Saving and Eco Friendly Agricultural Method. I belongs to Tamilnadu State in India. Natural Farming is the only method to avoid the hazardness of Chemical Farming and Costly Organic Farming(Highly Expensive than Chemical Farming). The Farming method is like a Forest, All Forests live and more green without human existense with extra-ordinary humas and bio-diversity in forest ecology. The Culture “Jeevamirtha” is a Miracle Culture that it will enrich the soil and soil biota. The trillions of Effective Microbes in Jeevamirtha, it will convert the non-available from of nutrients to available form to the Root-zone of all the plants. The Local Earthworms activation also very fast and it will help to increase the ground water level, aeration to the soil, free ploughing by the Earthworms avoid Tractors/Power Tillers in our land.
    Therefore, pls think about Zero Budget of Natural Farming and its implementation to all over Sri Lanka. This will help very much for your Farmers/Greenery/Soil and the total Enviroment. At present, I am in Saudi Arabia under the project of Natural Farming Practices-Implementation around KSA.

  9. Hi,
    When I post my comments you might think what relevence I have to talk about this.

    I’m a Sales Executive for a British Institute based in Sri lanka & I am a member of CIM-UK (Fully qualified in CIM). I have worked for a world famous financial organization for 4 years & am well aware of what’s going on in the world.

    Despite of my working back grounds & my professional education, I am thoroughly interested in organic farming. This did not arise because of what I have read in your article or the potential profits it might give.

    I live in a village in the suburbes of Colombo. It’s called ‘Diyagama’. This is the Village they are building the ‘Mahida Rajapakse International Sports stadium’. I have grown up in this village from the age of 5. I was quite pationated by organic farming ever since I was 5 & have grown vegetables in my little home garden from that age.

    I must mention the TV programme ‘Ran Aswanu Mangalyaya’ where my passion for farming rised again.

    I was looking forward to start my own business in organic farming, but found hardly any education on this. I want to study organic farming in traditional methods. I saw many themes in the internet about organic farming but found hardly any site which educates a potential farmer.

    So how about the National Centre for Organic Agriculture developing a site for educating any one who is interested.

    Also as a marketere I would like to volunteer my self for marketing consultancy for your institute (for free) in developing organic Agriculture in Sri Lanka & marketing it to the farmers. Thereby promoting Sri Lanka as a country of Organic Cultivation to the world in obtaining relevent accreditations.

    Please let me know any educational conferences your organisation is conducting. Also if I am starting cultivation what sort of support/education I will get from your organisation.

    • we are “society for ecological agriculture” promoting organic agriculture in sri lanka.
      more frequntly we organize some work shop about organic agriculture in our faculty(faculty of agriculture) if you can come to peradeniya we can inform you about those

  10. Informative article.Suggest supply practical guidance to organic farmers. How about a allowance or a concession in place of fertilizer subsidy? NCOA could take up the matter

  11. Dear Madhi,
    Enjoyed reading your article. Please let me know the contact details of organic producers of rice,vegetables and fruits in Sri Lanka.




    • we can help you put your phone number to the site

  12. Hi all,
    Iam very interested in this subject , curently iam out of the country but planing to be back home soon, and after my arrivale i would like to start my own Organic farm,

    however i am very new to this and would like to get help from people currently know about and so on.
    so is thier any one or orgarnisation who could give me help hand.
    It will be greatley appricated.

    • Dear mahdi,
      I am also organic farmer since 2004. But I would like to meet you and get more advice from you . Pl Help

    • when u came back to mother land . I would like to meet you

      • My motherland is Iran are you from Iran?

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