Import Section of Ceylon Chamber of Commerce

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Our Journey

Our Journey

The birth of the Import Section, under the auspices of the esteemed Ceylon Chamber of Commerce, can be traced back to the early years of the 20th century. It was a time when the significance of the import trade was emerging, prompting a group of forward-thinking Chamber members engaged in imports to take a momentous step. On June 7, 1901, they formed the pioneering ‘Ceylon Importers’ Association’ with an unclouded vision—to provide decisive leadership in matters pertaining to the import trade.

As the import trade rapidly expanded, the Association was highly active, leaving a profound impact. However, after nine groundbreaking years, a surprising lull set in, and activities were suspended until 1928. It was on December 3, 1928, that the Association was revitalized and reestablished, reclaiming its position as a vibrant hub of import-related endeavors.

During the 4th Annual General Meeting, the Association adopted a pivotal resolution empowering the Committee to explore the possibility of merging with the Ceylon Chamber of Commerce, transforming into a dedicated Section within the Chamber.


The turning point arrived on a momentous Friday morning, November 22, 1935, when the Ceylon Import Association convened an Extraordinary General Meeting at the prestigious Ceylon Chamber of Commerce. It was there that the rules of the Import Section were officially adopted, under the proposal of the esteemed Founder Chairman, Mr. J.A. Tarbat, and seconded by Mr. R.P.L. Ross of Mackwoods Ltd.

Thus, the Import Section of the Ceylon Chamber of Commerce came into being, fueled by its primary objective of promoting, coordinating, and supporting the interests of the Import Trade. In addition, it was entrusted with the authority to establish rules, gather vital information, and take necessary action to safeguard its members’ interests in all import-related matters.

Today, the Import Section stands as a testament to a rich heritage and an unwavering commitment to advancing the import trade. We invite you to be a part of this esteemed community, where innovation, collaboration, and excellence converge to shape the future of imports in Sri Lanka. Discover the unparalleled opportunities and collective strength that the Import Section offers as we navigate the evolving landscape of international trade together.

The founder Chairman and Committee comprised:

ChairmanMr. J A Tarbat
Committee> Bosanquet & Skrine Limited
> Brown & Company Limited
> É B Creasy & Company Limited
> Mackwoods Limited
> Shaw Wallace & Company
> Volkart Brothers
SecretaryMr. C F Whitaker (Secretary of the Ceylon Chamber of Commerce – Ex officio)

The pioneers, who set the stage for the Import Section on November 22, 1935, were:

Mr. J A Tarbat (in the Chairman)

Name of FirmRepresented by
Bosanquet & Skrine Ltd. Mr. F Cunningham
Brown & Co. Ltd. Mr. W Armour-Mudie
Cave & Co. H WMr. É A Bartleet
Darley Butler & Co. Ltd.Mr. F A W Mitchell
Delmege Forsyth & Co. Ltd.Mr. N O C Marsh
Dodwell & Co. Ltd. Mr. A C J Stevens
Finlay & Co. Ltd. James Mr. A M Robertson
Hayley & Kenny Mr. P H Wilkinson
Hunter & Co.Mr. D Gordon
Lee Hedges & Co. Ltd. Mr. C F H Edwards
Mackwoods Ltd.Mr. R P L Ross
Nestle & Anglo Swiss Condensed Milk Co. Mr. K H Batger
Volkart BrothersMr. A M Thalmann

Mr. C F Whitaker, Secretary

The Section plays a critical role in the continuous advancement of the import sector of the country. It initiates action to identify future trends, focuses on key issues and assists in the development of strategic plans to meet new challenges and opportunities. It also maintains an excellent rapport with the state sector and provides a platform for its members to project issues affecting their trade. The Import Section functions as a facilitator and a link between the members and the government sector.

In this changing scenario, two factors remained unaltered. Firstly, the Import Section, which was established as the first direct arm of the Ceylon Chamber of Commerce, even after 80 years of existence, still remains the only direct trade association of the Chamber. This is the only association, which has the privilege of being known as a “Section of the Ceylon Chamber of Commerce”. Though there are over 40 affiliated associations and bilateral business councils functioning under the aegis of the Ceylon Chamber of Commerce, this is the only association restricting membership exclusively to the members of the Ceylon Chamber of Commerce. The Import Section is indeed honoured to operate under the auspices of the Ceylon Chamber of Commerce, an institution with an enduring history of over 175 years. The Import Section membership being open only to the members of the Chamber clearly indicates that our membership represents the cream of the business community in Sri Lanka.

The second factor is that the auditor of the Import Section. KPMG Ford, Rhodes, Thornton & Company, the pioneer auditors, who were then known as Ford, Rhodes, Thornton & Company, has continued to play that important role, without a break, for the past 80 years.

Since its inauguration, the scope and activities of the Import Section has expanded with the introduction of various economic reforms by successive Governments. It has exerted a strong influence on the import trade and economy of the country by being sensitive to these changes and responding pro-actively to them. It has also brought into focus the importance of maintaining a close rapport with state institutions.

The Section, which commenced with a membership of 21, now represents 125 companies engaged in the import of a range of products. The rapid changes in the trading policies experienced over the years prompted the Committee to revisit the objectives and develop a Vision and Mission Statement. Accordingly, in 2002 during the Chairmanship of Mr. Suraj Fernando the Section formulated the Vision and Mission statements.

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