The agriculture sector continues to be the mainstay of the national economy in Sri Lanka, though its contribution to GDP is 8.7%. A quarter of the labor force is employed in this sector. The majority of the land used for food production in Sri Lanka is owned by smallholder farmers with average landholdings of less than two hectares. The horticulture sector deals with fruits, vegetables, floriculture, and landscape industries.
In Sri Lanka, the horticulture sector has a high potential to develop further, as different types of horticultural produce can be grown throughout the year in different agro-climatic zones. Recently, the potential, interest, and demand for fruits and vegetables have increased in the country. The farmers grow about 40 different species of vegetables, and the total production was 1,588,256 metric tons in 2022. Sri Lanka has earned 28.5 million US dollars by exporting 21,540 metric tons of vegetables, while 697,144 metric tons of vegetables worth US dollars 384.3 million were imported. Fruit cultivation is mostly confined to the home garden level, with some varieties being commercially grown.
The production of fruits was estimated at 3.3 million metric tons in 2021, and 43,426 metric tons of fruits, worth US dollars 38.0 million, were exported, with 90% of the production being exported to the Middle East and Maldives. While 55,725 metric tons, valued at US dollars 67.6 million, were imported. The continuous supply of fruits and vegetables to meet the market demand is a challenge as there is a gap between demand and supply. The floriculture industry is still a small and medium-category enterprise. This sector includes ornamental foliage plants, cut decorative foliage, cut flowers, aquarium plants, landscaping plants, tissue-cultured plants, and flower seeds.
The country's floriculture exports for the year 2022 were nearly US$ 14.66 million, and the foliage plants dominate the export market (88% of the income). The Netherlands, Japan, Saudi Arabia, and UAE were the main export markets. The Sri Lankan horticulture industry has faced a drawback from 2020 to 2022 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, political unrest, the policy decision of the government in 2021 to ban agrochemicals, and high fertilizer prices in the world market. As a result, the production and export of the horticultural produce still have not recovered up to its potential.
Yakandawala, Kapila. (2023). Status of Horticulture in Sri Lanka.