Sri Lanka’s coconut yield may normalise by next month to reach 2800 to 2900 million nuts for this year, according to Plantation Industries Minister Navin Dissanayake.
“We have taken the necessary steps to develop the yield, so it will come back to normal in the near future. And I hope that this year it will come back to normal. The CRI (Coconut Research Institute) says that it will be normalized by July. It will be 2800 million nuts to 2900 million nuts this year,” Dissanayake told a recent programme held at the CRI in Lunuwila.
According to the CRI’s production forecasts for the year, the annual national coconut production is expected to increase by 21 percent year-on-year to around 2971.9 million nuts this year. Although the coconut output has declined by double digits during the March-June period this year, the CRI expects the output to pick up gradually with accelerated growth anticipated towards the end of the year.
Dissanayake asserted that the usage of technology for coconut cultivation and management activities needs to be strengthened and welcomed the development of hybrid nuts, which give better yields. He noted that some of the growers and exporters remain sceptical about the CRI’s predictions.
“I know that our research centres are highly underfunded. Sadly, Sri Lanka does not have a culture of research,” he added.
Some of the industry experts are in the opinion that the adverse weather-hit coconut industry would only reach full recovery by next year. Dissanayake acknowledged that the coconut product exports could easily generate US $ 1 billion revenue for the country, from the current US $ 600 million to 700 million, if the production is there, as there is a massive global demand for coconut-based products such as coconut water, virgin coconut oil and desiccated coconut.
He lamented that Sri Lanka is currently only focusing on finding short-term solutions to meet the demand of the local population. He stressed that the authorities should find land in North and East, Mahaweli Zone, etc. for coconut cultivation, with a long-term vision. Dissanayake elaborated that the best way to tackle the high coconut prices in the country is allowing imports. However, he noted that the strong protectionist culture of the local coconut industry is the main barrier for this.
“Coconut cultivation in the country is tied up with a very strong coconut culture, which is very protectionist. It is a very strong wall even I can’t break. Perhaps it is a right wall.
I am always guided by my research institutes. What they advise me is if you import coconut, some kinds of diseases may enter the country though this. As a responsible minister, I can’t allow this happen,” Dissanayake said.
The minister also stressed that blocking out coconut land by private owners cannot be prevented by the government.
“You know the people in the industry are selling their family land for real estate sellers. It is a private decision that they make. As a government we can’t interrupt that decision.”