- To meet President and Plantations Industry Minister soon
- Believes President would understand industry concerns being a realist
Sri Lanka’s oil palm industry plans to meet President Gotabaya Rajapaksa to discuss the industry’s future with expectations for a fair hearing and relief amid the recent policy announcement to completely ban the plantation of oil palm in the country.“President Rajapaksa being a pragmatic leader, we are hopeful he will give us a fair hearing and relief. It is a legitimate request to plant legitimate crops,” Palm Oil Industry Association of Sri Lanka (POIA) President Dr. Rohan Fernando said.
The Association expects to meet President Rajapaksa and Minister of Plantation Ramesh Pathirana in the coming few days to make their appeal. President Rajapaksa making his policy announcement to Parliament last week said “the plantation of palm oil trees will be stopped immediately”.
However, Dr. Fernando said the industry remains hopeful that President Rajapaksa would consider their request in a fair manner. “We feel that he would consider our fair request, because these saplings were imported in 2014 when Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa was the President, based on a Cabinet decision and only after we secured quarantine and all other necessary approvals,” he elaborated.
POIA is said to have imported 356,000 oil palm saplings to expand cultivation, which have been maturing in nurseries for more than three years, due to the government’s failure to address concerns arising from falsehood and disinformation spread by misled activists and lobbyists with vested interests.
“We are requesting the President to permit us plant. Otherwise it would be a colossal loss for the country and employment. We are hopeful that he will be sympathetic to our request and we are hopeful that his decision will be implemented gradually,” Dr. Fernando added.
The Association expects a cumulative loss of over Rs.500 million, if the imported oil palm saplings are not permitted to be planted within next two months. Sri Lanka has less than 11,000 hectares under oil palm – just over 1 percent of the extents under tea, rubber and coconut – and plantation companies had been mandated to increase the total area under oil palm to 20,000 hectares under strictly-enforced guidelines that ensure the industry is environmentally non-invasive, before the government back-tracked on the plan.