Link Samahan, the flagship brand of Link Natural Products (Pvt.) Ltd. (L.N.P.), the nearly Rs. one billion turnover herbal company, recently obtained approval from the Canadian authorities to enter that market, after a more than a two year struggle.
The product, recommended as a healer for coughs, colds and similar types of virus induced respiratory diseases including catarrh, made from a formula comprising some 14 natural herbs, is already being exported to more than 30 countries including the U.S.A. and India, under the Indo-Lanka Free Trade Agreement.
Dr. Devapriya Nugawela, Chairman/Managing Director L.N.P. told reporters on Monday that they export some 30-35 million Samahan satchets annually, but their biggest consumer was the local market, where they sell some 70 million packets yearly.
He said their overseas consumer is not just the ethnic market.
L.N.P. is a CIC Group subsidiary. CIC Group Chairman B.R.L. Fernando told The Sunday Leader that there are expensive and laborious approval processes that their products are subjected to before they could enter a foreign market, such as the developed markets in the world.
They have not yet obtained approval to enter markets such as the U.K., E.U., Japan and Australia.
“It’s important to ensure that supply meets demand,” said Fernando.
A European buyer had wanted to buy their whole range of Samahan products, said Fernando.
The company’s operations also include netting in some 400 outgrowers from places such as Anuradhapura and Anamaduwa, said Nugawela.
They keep very small margins in their exports, as the distributor there also has to attend to the promotional works of the product, said Fernando. Advertising in overseas markets is expensive.
Former State Pharmaceuticals Corporation Chairman Prof. Colvin Goonaratna in his speech said that he is aware of some of his former pupils, now doctors domiciled overseas, who when they visit the island, take with them heaps of Samahan satchets whilst returning to their adopted homelands.
There have been allegations that Samahan comprises a mix of western medicines created in laboratories. But upon investigation it was found that this allegation was false.
Samahan is made from natural herbs processed in its factory in Dompe.
According to Goonaratna, herbal sales in the U.S. market grew by 5% year on year to U.S.$ 5.1 billion last year despite the recession.
Samahan celebrated its fifteenth anniversary celebrations this year.
Former Pharmaceuticals Society of Sri Lanka President Prof. Tuley de Silva in his speech said that internationally the use of herbal medicines is increasing. He said that Samahan has “no added chemicals and so forth.”