By Dilina Kulathunga
Climate change has invariably taken its toll on the country’s coconut cultivation considerably and thus, the growers are calling for drought and temperature resistant coconut plants as an urgent need.
Despite erratic weather condition, the coconut had the expected crop last year. However, the subject ministry predicts this year’s production to fall at least by 20 percent due to dry weather prevailing in the Chilaw, Puttalam and Kurunegala areas.
“We have already had a taste of the changing climate with flash floods followed by prolonged droughts and very high temperatures. Last year the prolonged drought that hit the Chilaw, Puttalam and Kurunegala regions has resulted in a serious drop in crops in these areas along with half sized nuts which can only be sold as No. 2 nuts, seriously affecting the incomes of growers,” said the re-elected President of the Coconut Growers Association of Sri Lanka (CGASL), Lalit Godamunne.
Addressing the 19th Annual General Meeting of the CGASL held last week at the BMICH, he emphasized the need to urgently develop newer strains that are drought and high temperature resistant with the highest priority.
“As we all know developing newer strains is a long drawn out process and add to that the long growing time of a coconut tree only goes to emphasis the urgency of the problem confronting us. Maybe it’s timely to set up a special project adequately funded to address and work full time on this issue,” he urged the Ministry of Coconut Development and Janatha Estate Development.
From the total production, 70 percent is utilized for domestic consumption and this is as much as 3,400 million nuts per annum. The ministry targets to produce 3,600 nuts by end of 2016 increasing up to 4,200 million by 2020 for which purpose the Coconut Development Authority initiated a programme to distribute 32 million plants during 2011-2016.
“Time is obviously of essence and unless we can replace our present generation of trees with the newer varieties, all the opportunities before us (industry) will be of no consequence. This issue of climate change will have an impact on food security. Though food security is not synonymous with food self-sufficiency, it is an important element and coconut being the second staple food is a key element in the whole equation,” said Godamunne, commending the work carried out by the Coconut Research Institute towards this endeavour.