Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka's livestock sector and climate change, August 2020

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Sri Lanka's livestock sector plays an important role for food and nutritional security; climate change; sustainable consumption, production, and development; rural livelihoods; human health; animal welfare; and the environment. It is vital to integrate the livestock sector into Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs), National Adaptation Plans (NAPs), and policies to increase resilience, food security, and rural livelihoods while minimizing adverse impacts.


  • Dairy and poultry form the majority of Sri Lanka's livestock sector, which is mostly organized around smallholder farming.

  • Meat, milk, and egg consumption has increased significantly over the past decades, causing the sector to expand. Livestock contributes to deforestation, greenhouse gas emissions, and other environmental issues.

  • Mixed smallholder farming systems can be far less harmful to environment and climate and build resilience of rural communities.

  • The NDCs of Sri Lanka under the Paris Agreement and its NAP of Sri Lanka include livestock as one of the priority adaptation sectors to address climate risks.

  • However, stakeholders and experts have identified a number of implementation gaps and needs for a sustainable and climate-friendly livestock sector, including the need for dedicated policies, reliable EIAs, research stations and academic research, improved financial and technical capacity, awareness of new breeding methods and breeds, and the need to establish a data system.


The livestock sector (including poultry) plays a vital part in food systems and livelihoods of rural households in Sri Lanka, with more than 600,000 registered livestock farms, most of which are small-scale. However, livestock is also one of the country's economic sectors that is most vulnerable to the impacts of climate change.

Sri Lanka's livestock sector mainly comprises cattle, buffaloes, goats, sheep, pigs, and poultry. Animal production generated 119 billion rupees in 2018, up from 27 billion in 2010. Dairy and poultry form the vast majority of Sri Lanka's livestock sector, with the dairy industry considered the most important area for investment and development. Sri Lanka has approximately 21 million chickens and 750,000 cattle and buffalo milk cows.

Annual milk production has increased by 65 million litres from 2015 to 2019 alone while there has been an eighty-fold increase of meat consumption and a tripling of egg consumption per capita since 1980.