New high-tech Coconut Authority sets record 2020 targets

By Madhusha Thavapalakumar

With the deployment of a new sophisticated IT system, the Coconut Development Authority (CDA) is eyeing its highest-ever export earnings from coconuts and coconut-based products in 2020.

CDA Chairman Udaya Rupasinghe told The Sunday Morning Business that coconut exports worth Rs. 150 billion have been targeted through an Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) system.

The proposal for the new ERP was submitted to the Cabinet by Minister Navin Dissanayake in his capacity as the Minister of Plantation Industries and it received Cabinet approval last week. The estimated Rs. 40 million project is expected to come into operation from 1 January 2020.

The introduction of this system was a suggestion by the CDA to fast-track and streamline the whole coconut exporting process and also to replace its decade old data collecting system which is vulnerable to cyber security threats.

Rupasinghe noted that implementation of the system will interlink Sri Lanka Customs, the CDA, and the exporting company or the individual and that this would cut down time consuming approval processes.

“Our inspectors go around the country and collect samples manually. These samples are tested at our laboratory. It takes two to five days to provide reports to exporters depending on consignments and quality. We are currently doing this manually,” Rupasinghe added.

However, following the implementation of the ERPS, laboratory test results will get ready within a day and the results will be emailed or messaged to the relevant exporter. Depending on the local availability, the CDA will import laboratory equipment for this purpose.

“Exporters, particularly small-scale exporters had to come to Colombo to obtain these test results and submit them to Customs in order to export their consignments. They will not be required to travel here and there anymore after the implementation,” he noted.

Accordingly, test results will also be shared on the ERP system where the Customs can access the results and approve the particular consignment to export. The exporting company or individual can track this whole process from his mobile or computer while the CDA can track approved and rejected consignments by the Customs.

ERPS will also categorise and list out coconut and coconut-based products of Sri Lanka on a website where these products would be exposed to potential importers around the world. From this, the CDA expects to find new export markets.

The Sunday Morning Business also spoke to the Ministry of Plantation Industries Secretary J.A. Ranjith. He noted that the Ministry was trying to get ERP system done within this year but was slightly pessimistic about it.

“We just received the approval but we are yet to receive the decision officially from the Cabinet. After that, we have to talk to the Treasury and see whether we can allocate Rs. 40 million from the 2019 Budget. If we cannot, then we have to wait until the next Budget.”

However, Ranjith noted that even before the Budget allocation, tender proposals will be called and then a technical evaluation committee (TEC) will be appointed to evaluate the proposal and finalise a competitive bidder.

According to the CDA, Sri Lanka’s coconut and coconut-based products exports grew by 26% year-on-year in the first quarter of 2019 as it recorded Rs. 28.4 billion during the period. By the end of this year, the CDA hopes to achieve Rs. 110 billion export earnings from coconuts compared to Rs. 95 billion last year.