Business Counseling Unit (BCU)
The Business Counselling Unit (BCU) is a unit located at the head office of the Department of Export Agriculture for the purpose of enhancing the quality of the spice products and providing a better market and reasonably high price for the stakeholders of the Export Crops sector. It promotes innovative agricultural and processing standards, such as Good Agricultural Practice (GAP) and Good Manufacturing Practices (GMP), as well as standardization processes for Organic crop establishment and certification, HACCP and Fair-trade certification. In addition, the Business Counselling Unit is responsible for checking the quality of primary spice products, providing quality assurance certificates for the products, promoting value added products and providing advice to new entrepreneurs in the spice trade. The Business Counselling Unit also serves as a center for connecting spice producers and buyers.
1. Environmental Green Village Program (Organic Program)
Under this program, groups of farmers who cultivate EACs are registered as Organic Farming Societies and provide necessary guidance and investment assistance for the conversion of their cultivated lands from traditional agricultural activities to organic farming lands. Export crop cultivating villages registered under this scheme having financial assistance as Rs. 30,000.00 per hectare per year as Organic Investment Assistance for Organic Farming Villages and for obtaining an internationally recognized Organic Standards Certificate at the end of the period of organic conversion, providing financial incentives to farmer organizations in the amount of Rs. 150,000.00, Rs. 100,000.00 and Rs, 50,000.00 consecutively for first three (3) years.
2. Standardizing program on Good Agriculture Practices (GAP)
The export crops are produced under the Good Agricultural Practices Program to enhance the quality of the locally produced export crops, produce healthy spices while minimizing environmental damage, economically viable, environmentally friendly, socially acceptable and sustainable export crops to protect employee welfare and social justice. Export Growers who wish to obtain this certification can obtain this GAP Quality Certificate totally free of charge from the Department of Export Agriculture with the standards (SLS) of Sri Lanka Standards Institute.
3. Standardizing program on Good Manufacturing Practices (GMP)
The steps from the harvesting of the spices to the preparation of the final product to the consumer is subject to the standardization of good production practices. This program is being implemented by the Department of Export Agriculture with a view to increasing the demand for quality spices and allied products in both local and international markets. Under this program, export crop collectors, stockists, processors as well as processors of value-added products are advised and guided to transform the standard and obtain the GMP certification from the Sri Lanka Standards Institution or other recognized certification body. This offers an incentive allowance from Rs. 50,000.00 to Rs. 125,000.00 according to the investment value of processing plant.
4. Provide quality inspection certificate for primary spice products
Small scale laboratory facilities for quality testing of spices have been established in all District Offices of the Department of Export Agriculture as well as in the department Extension Offices office in Agrarian Service Centers. It provides a free report on basic products such as dried black/white pepper, cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg and coffee. In addition to this, the Mini-Lab program has been facilitated to monitor the soil condition of the cultivated lands and to obtain a recommendation report to improve the soil nutrient conditions accordingly.
5. Co-ordination of Producers and Buyers
Provide strategic guidance to growers, collectors, processors or primary or secondary producers who are looking to sell export crop products, to find a fair market as well as to find quality spices for local and foreign buyers. The BCU acting as a hub for manufacturers and buyers to provide strategic direction for both parties. This guide is comprehensive for beginners and innovators as well as amateur entrepreneurs who enter the spice industry and the BCU also organizes training programs for this purpose.