Coconut growers charged that unrestricted palm oil imports into the country combined with lack of government support are eroding Sri Lanka’s coconut industry, with already 80 percent of the coconut mills shut down.
“The unconstrained import of palm oil is creating an adverse effect on the industry and the economy of the country. The total palm oil imports for year 2018 were 235,000 MT at the present price of US $ 600 per MT valued at US $ 141 million,” The Coconut Growers Association of Sri Lanka (CGASL), Gampaha Branch President, Lalith Jayewardene told the recent AGM of the Association.
According to him, the coconut oil to palm oil consumption ratio in Sri Lanka is at 1 to 9, despite being a coconut growing country.
CGASL reiterated its call to the government to provide incentives, subsidies and guaranteed prices to retain coconut growers in the industry by enabling them to become competitive with palm oil imports.
“Representations repeatedly made to the government to provide incentives and subsidies to water the lands for conservation and moisture have been futile. Also, a minimum Farm Gate Price of Rs. 35 per nut to the farmer to maintain good agricultural practices and economical yields was demanded,” he said.
Though the demand has shifted to desiccated coconut, coconut cream, coconut milk powder and virgin coconut oil from traditional copra, Jayewardene said that farmers are not able to benefit from the changing market trends as the palm oil imports dominate the local market.
He noted that Sri Lanka could save a considerable amount of foreign exchange by restricting palm oil imports.
“The earnings from coconut exports amount to US$ 20 million, while the expenditure on palm oil imports amounts to US$ 141 million. Sri Lanka could save valuable foreign exchange and revive the coconut industry,” he stressed.
CGASL was formed with the objective of strengthening coconut growers, by increasing yields of their coconut lands and obtaining a good Farm Gate price and contributing towards a healthy nation.