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Policies And Development Interventions For A Sustainable And Competitive Coconut Industry – The Sri Lankan Experience

“Coconut” is one of the essential food items in day to day lives of Sri Lankans. More than 75% of the total nut production (which was 2900 million nuts in 2008) is consumed for culinary purposes. Whilst providing livelihood security for more than 800,000 thousand people in production, processing and marketing, coconut industry generates significant export earnings (Rs. 28 billion in 2008) to the economy of the country. In spite of small volumes of nuts available for industries, Sri Lanka still maintains 3rd position among coconut products export countries.

There have been many problems in the coconut sector preventing growth in nut production as well as in processing and marketing. Inadequate nut production to meet the domestic demand and to expand the processing sector, is one of the key issues.

The situation in Sri Lanka is unique as a large percentage of the nut production is consumed locally for dietary purposes. Therefore, in order to expand coconut based products and promote marketing, it is necessary to produce at least another 1000 million nuts per annum. Increased cost of production including fertilizer and energy cost and decreased income due to low farm gate nut prices discourages farmers from maintaining the plantation well. Pests and diseases, fragmentation of coconut lands, inconsistent tariff adjustments – are some of the other problems. There have been a number of policy interventions in Sri Lanka to develop the coconut sector.

In the Government policy document “Mahinda Chintana – Towards A New Sri Lanka” the coconut sector has been identified as one of the key areas of development. As mentioned in the “Mahinda Chintana”, it is envisaged to develop coconut cultivation in the South, North and East in addition to the main coconut growing areas, and also to increase productivity using new technologies, and to increase fertilizer subsidy and other financial assistance.

The development programmes in the North and East are already in progress. Rehabilitation of plantation which had been neglected and damaged during the past three decades due to the conflict situation, and also the new/replanting has already been commenced. The Tea, Rubber and Coconut Estates (Control of Fragmentation) Board has been able to control the fragmentation of prime coconut lands for housing and other commercial purposes to a great extent.

The Weligama Leaf Wilt Disease has become a social and political issue as a large number of coconut trees have been earmarked to be uprooted. Under the guidance of the Minister of Plantation Industries, a collaborative project with the participation of the scientists of the Coconut Research Institute, Council of Agricultural Research Policy and the Universities is in progress.

The Policy Analysis and Advisory Committee (PAAC) formed in the Ministry, comprising all stakeholders in the coconut sector is also playing a crucial role in making recommendations to the Treasury and other relevant parties, with regard to the development of the coconut sector.

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