By Cheranka Mendis
Sri Lanka’s latest national branding attempt ‘Pure Ceylon Cinnamon’ was officially launched on Friday to a forum of diplomatic missions in the country.
The brand was initially unveiled at the Presidential Export Awards in June this year by President Mahinda Rajapaksa.
The launch to diplomatic community on Friday and industry in general was to provide greater exposure and awareness.
The logo also known as the ‘lion logo’ would help promote and position the high quality and exclusive cinnamon exported by Sri Lanka in the world market increasing the comparative advantage of the product. The logo is also said to be the second national brand launched by the state for an agricultural product after the much famous ‘Ceylon tea.’ In keeping with the objective of forming a logo, the Export Development Board under which the logo was created is now looking at marking the patent right of the brand in USA and EU. Even though the cost of registering the trade mark was under wraps, the EDB alleged that steps are now being taken to seal the deal before it is too late.
The Board also hopes to officially launch the logo and branding internationally at the Anuga Food Fair to be held in Cologne, Germany in October this year. The EDB has already allocated a pavilion for the country and the logo will be revealed in a special ceremony there, Director General of EDB Sujatha Weerakoon told the Daily FT.
She also said that special bodies have been invited for the launch including American Spice Traders Association (ASTA) and various Chef’s Guild’s from around the world. With Germany now on the verge of banning Cassia Cinnamon, Sri Lanka’s main competitor in the trade from being imported to the country due to the bad health effects, will be the best place stop to take the word forward, she said. “They have discovered that long term use of Cassia leads to cancer and other illnesses therefore putting a ban to the future importation of the low quality product,” Weerakoon said.
Further promotion of the brand new branding will also take place at the Expo 2012 international trade fair to be held in March. The fair is expected to draw in 1900 serious buyers and investors from some of the leading export countries in the world.
EDB Chairman Janaka Ratnayake also noted that the Board plans to put forward a comprehensive development strategy for the promotion of the branding activities in the near future. However, the plan is yet on the drawing boards, he said. “We are currently conducting discussions on how the next step should be planned. We hope to involve The Spice Council and key cinnamon exporters in this endeavour.”
When questioned as to what sort of investment has been budgeted for the international promotion activities, a rather excited Ratnayake said: “We do not have a planned budget. First step is to gain the patent rights in USA and EU. Then we will look elsewhere. But we have no issues about the financials. We can find the money when needed.”
The cinnamon industry in Sri Lanka brought in revenue of USD 85 million in exports in 2010. The industry is expected to play a key role in making the spices and allied product industry a billion dollar industry by 2015. Sri Lanka being the largest producer of cinnamon in the world accounting to almost 70% of the world production has continued to grow within the first half of the year. Statistics as revealed by Rathnayake shows a 81% growth within the first six months of 2011. The products main markets are said to be USA, Mexico, Peru and Ecuador which grew by 73%, 55%, 153% and 281% respectively within the year.
The industry which seems to be on a high role of performance is plagued by a lack of trained peelers in the country. Spanning over a land area of 31,000 hectares, Sri Lanka produces 16,000 tons a year of which 13,000 tons are exported. The country only has 16,000 peelers whereas the need is for 22,000. “We are heavily under employed,” Chairman elect of The Spice Council Nanda Kohona told the FT.
“The Council is currently working on building Good Manufacturing Processing Centres (GMP Centres) with the support of World Trade Organization and UNIDO. We want to upgrade the cinnamon peelers and give them a better sounding designation such as ‘cinnamon technician’ give the uniforms and maybe even conduct a certificate or diploma course to upgrade their status. This we believe will be able to attract more youth to enter the industry.”
The Council is also discussing with Bank Of Ceylon (BOC) to set up a special unit for peelers to save, invest and insure.
If the number of peelers is increased, the country would be able to double their production immediately without expanding the land area of production. “From the land area available 60% is pealed once a year. Only 25% is peeled twice a year, even though peeling twice a year is possible in every tree. The bulk of the peeling is not being harvested. If done properly within two years we can double our production.”
The EDB has also plans to upgrade a total of 20 cinnamon processing centres to GMP levels by the end of the year. Out of the allocated number, the Board has already assisted 12 centres. Agreements have already been signed to support the other eight and the Board is currently awaiting the final documents. Chairman Ratnayake stated that a sum of Rs.12 million has been allocated annually for the project.