This is a best prospect industry sector for this country. Includes a market overview and trade data.
Last Published: 7/22/2019


The agriculture sector contributes about 7 percent to the national GDP out of which the fisheries sector contributes around 1.2 percent and the livestock sector accounts for 0.6 percent.  Over 25 percent of Sri Lankans are employed in the agricultural sector.  Although Sri Lanka is a fertile tropical land with the potential for the cultivation and processing of a variety of crops, issues such as productivity and profitability hamper the growth of the sector.  

Sri Lanka’s primary food crop is rice.  Rice is cultivated during two seasons.  Tea is cultivated in the central highlands and is a major source of foreign exchange.  Fruit, vegetables, and oilseed crops are also cultivated in the country.  One of President Sirisena’s top priorities is to increase productivity in the agriculture sector.  There has been low adoption of mechanization in farming.  The president wants to increase mechanization and grow higher value cash crops such as fruit, flowers, and other export oriented crops.  The lack of private investment in agriculture due to uncertain policies limits the expansion of the sector.

Sri Lanka imports a variety of agricultural products and food including wheat, lentils, sugar, fruit, milk, and milk products.  The importation of food and beverages account for 7.2 percent of total imports in 2018.  Sri Lanka is emerging as an important market for international business and tourism.  A variety of upscale international and local hotels, resorts, and restaurants have opened in Colombo, Kandy, Galle, and around major tourist sites.  They offer a good platform for introducing new-to-market imported food products.  Additionally, upscale retailers are creating avenues for imported foods and beverages.  Sri Lanka also imports animal feed.  Total agriculture, food, and beverage imports were $1.6 billion in 2018.  U.S. suppliers have significant opportunities in this market.

Leading Sub-Sectors and Opportunities

Wheat Grain:  Sri Lanka imported approximately 1.29 million metric tons of wheat in 2018.  All imports were commercial transactions and mostly of Canadian origin.  U.S. wheat exports to Sri Lanka were estimated at around $28 million in 2018.  Prima Ceylon Ltd, a Singapore-based wheat miller, is the largest producer of wheat flour in the country.  The flour produced by Prima is for domestic consumption, as well as for exports. The company operates one of the largest flour mills in the world in the eastern town of Trincomalee.  A second mill, owned by a company from the UAE, is operated in Colombo.  The main competitors in the wheat-supply business are Canada, India, and Australia. 

Lentils:  Sri Lanka is one of the major importers of red lentils with annual imports estimated at approximately $79 million.  India is a main exporter of lentils to Sri Lanka.  U.S. suppliers have significant opportunities in this market if a competitive pricing structure can be developed with a view to long-term selling in the market.  Many local buyers have expressed an interest in working with U.S. suppliers due to the superior quality of U.S. lentils. 

Animal feed:  Sri Lanka spends approximately $176 million annually to import animal feed.    Soy and corn are the main ingredients used in the animal feed industry, which formulates around
500,000 metric tons of animal feed annually.  GM restrictions are not applicable for animal feed.

The United States exported approximately $75 million of animal feed to Sri Lanka in 2018. 

U.S. soy bean product exports to Sri Lanka were estimated at $71 million in 2018.  Soy bean meal constitutes 82 percent of animal feed exported to Sri Lanka.  In addition, soy bean exported in other forms accounts close to $1 million.

Currently, some 150,000 metric tons of corn are imported to the country annually to supplement the local production.  The United States exported $0.4 million of corn (maize) to Sri Lanka in 2018. 

Dairy Products: Sri Lanka is a net importer of dairy products.  The country has imported $349 million of milk and milk products in 2018. The United States has exported only $8 million dairy produce to Sri Lanka in 2018.

Meat: The total US meat and edible meat offal exports to Sri Lanka has been only $0.6 million. There is a growing demand for U.S. turkey, duck and other meat types for the food service industry.

Cotton, Yarn, and Fabric:  Sri Lanka imports approximately $208 million of cotton (raw cotton, yarn, and fabric) annually.  Imports of cotton, yarn and fabric from the United States were about $1.5 million in 2018. U.S. cotton suppliers have substantial opportunities to supply to Sri Lanka's export-orientated apparel sector.  Hong Kong, India, Indonesia, and South Korea are the current major cotton suppliers to Sri Lanka.

Web Resources

Ministry of Agriculture                             
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More Information

Sri Lanka Agribusiness Trade Development and Promotion