- RPCs have already planted palm oil in 11,000 hectares
- Minister urges RPCs come up with guidelines to regulate the cultivation
Sri Lanka is to move ahead with the former government’s policy of establishing 20,000 hectares of oil palm in the country as a ‘supplementary income’ to the rubber plantation, Plantations Industries Minister Navin Dissanayake said recently.
Addressing a workshop on rubber and oil palm development of the Regional Plantation Companies (RPCs) last week, Dissanayake said, “There is a lot of criticism against oil palm and some of it are unscientific and emotional.
When there’s an earth slip, the people are quick to point the finger at oil palm plantations. Most of our decisions have been based on emotions and that should not be the case.”
Speaking to Mirror Business, Planters Association Chairman Sunil Poholiyadde said RPCs have already planted palm oil in 11,000 hectares out of the permitted 20,000 hectares.
He noted that RPCs are currently following certain standards set by CRI in farming oil palm.
While urging RPCs to come with a set of guidelines to regulate the oil palm cultivation, the minister said that he would instruct the Coconut Research Institute (CRI) and, if required foreign experts will be brought to carry out studies on the impact of oil palm cultivation in Sri Lanka.
“We have to understand the science behind the plantation economy, plantations need an extra income.”
The profits from palm oil crop topped profits from tea and rubber due to low production cost.
However, several government officials have casted doubts on long-term prospects of oil palm, pointing out that local producers were able to maintain higher margins due to the commodity levies on palm oil imports.
“Deep down, you have the idea that oil palm can be a substitution for rubber. I don’t think you should come to that decision nor do we encourage that decision, because rubber is a fundamental crop in our country although the prices are down.
We, the policymakers, believe that rubber has a long-term future. Oil palm can be a supplement to your income, not a substitute for rubber,” the minister said.
He stressed that rubber trees not less than 30 years old should not be put down to plant oil palm.
The minister also said that he would brief the President on the current situation and the ministry’s stand on palm oil.
Dissanayake also announced that he has devolved the rubber sector decision making to the State Minister of Plantation Industries, which has been already gazetted.
He said he made the decision due to increasing responsibilities at the ministry as well as at the party level, where Dissanayake was recently appointed as UNP’s national organiser.