Warehouse Facilities

Sri Lanka has launched a negotiable warehouse receipts system with World Bank assistance to help farmers gain access to loans from banks and avoids difficulties in the sale of agricultural commodities. This will be a major step towards the setting up of a commodities exchange on the direction of Finance Minister Ravi Karunanayake, a senior Finance Ministry official revealed. Negotiable warehouse receipts allow transfer of ownership of any agriculture commodity stored in a warehouse without having to deliver the physical commodity.

These receipts are issued in negotiable form, to be used as collateral for bank loans, he disclosed. Warehouse Receipts financing facilitates the dual purpose of providing a value chain service to farmers through warehousing, and access to credit simultaneously against stored produce. Chairman of the Regional Development Bank Prasanna Premarathna told the Sunday times that the project aims to increase agricultural productivity and livelihoods in rural areas of Sri Lanka by strengthening key aspects impacting agricultural production and training and capacity building of farmers groups and other key stakeholders.

This was a pilot approach to addressing the problem of low productivity growth, appropriate access to financial services, and enforcement of good agricultural practices to ensure good quality produce that can fetch good practices after storage, he pointed out Regional Development Bank (RDB), has recently opened a spacious 26000 sq ft warehouse in galenbindunuwewa, where farmers can store their harvest at a very minimal charge depending on the type of grain. This will solve storage problems of agric produce of farmers in area.

The warehouse, divided into four segments, one containing machinery, and three stores capable of housing 5000 tones of grains, is equipped with state-of-the-art machinery, which ensure that the harvest is devoid of debris and is not wet. The Rs. 160 Mn Warehouse is the first of its kind to be built in Sri Lanka and the bank will construct three other warehouses in Manner, Monaragala and Ampara in the future. Farmers from neighboring villages are given the opportunity to store their harvest within the facility until they get the best market price. They are free to find their own customers or the warehouse Manager would contact a prospective high-scale buyer from the buyers registered at the bank. Sarath Padmakumara –Manager of the Galenbindunuwewa warehouse stated that the farmers can also obtain credit facilities by offering the stock as security. They can then settle the facility once they sell their harvest at an interest rate of 7% per annum.

The temperature-controlled warehouse is raised four ft from the ground and is constructed adhering to the highest international standards. The fully equipped lab is operated by trained officers who test the stock to ensure that it meets the desired quality standards prior to storing the harvest at the premies. While the farmer is expected to deliver the stock to the warehouse, the customer would be responsible for transport once he buys the harvest. A local farmer from the area stated that process of selling their harvest is the most difficult aspect for a farmer soon after the harvesting time. He further said that it is difficult for a farmer to keep their harvest at their own premises until they can get a good market price without compromising on the quality of the grains. He also revealed that previous experiences have made the farmers weary of placing their trust on companies that offer storage stores.

The quality standards maintained by the warehouse are backed by the state-of-the-art machines housed at the warehouse. In order to provide maximum security for the stored harvest, the warehouse is equipped with 24 hour security measures and the stock will be fully insured. After months of working in the field, braving various problems including flooding or droughts, pests and diseases, harvest season itself brings an array of problems to the farmers. The lack of space within their premises to safety store their harvest, the price reduction in the market due to the abundance of grains available at the market and the loans farmers take during the cultivation period typically haunt them at this period. Ultimately it is the intermediates who buy the harvest from the farmer, store it in their spacious warehouse until the demand dictate an increase in buying price and sell it at exorbitant prices to the final buyer that make any profit.

If the grains are not stored properly, the farmers risk damages to their harvest through rodents and insects and the ill-effects of exposure to the elements. In the past, some efforts have been taken by certain institutions to offer storage facilities to the farmers. However, an experienced farmer, T.B. Seneviratne of Ihalagama, Anuradhapura said that these projects have created a negative impression on many farmers. Upul Bandara, a farmer from Ihlagama, Anuradhapura. When asked about the problems be faced at harvest season listed several, among which the most prominent was the inability to complete with the local merchant. He started that this merchant gives the grain seeds and the manure for cultivation as well as household necessities throughout the year on a loan basis and once the harvest is gathered, the farmers have no choice but to sell their products to the merchant at a low price in order to pay off their debts. Furthermore, Bandara, the owner of two tractors, stated that since the merchant owns ten tractors, he is often able to transport the harvest faster and farmers are often left to see their harvest being packed and transported away despite their protestations.

As a solution to these problems, the 100% government owned RDB bank has been on supporting the agriculture industry with numerous credit facilities for over 30 years. As such the farmers can rest easy in the knowledge that their harvest is secure at the hands of those who have their best interest at heart.