10th September 2000
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HNB firing comes under UIN fire

By Chanakya Dissanayake
Hatton National Bank's decision to fire the President of HNB branch of Ceylon Bank Employees Union, S. B. Abeysekera has come under fire from Union International Network. 

Union International Network (UIN) represents 15 million workers in 140 countries. UIN condemns HNB's action, especially after Mr Abeysekara filed a law-suit against the bank management for misuse of EPF funds to buy Sampath Bank shares. 

In a letter both to President Chandrika Kumaratunga and HNB Managing Director, Mr. Rienzie Wijethilake, UIN's Secretary General has asked for immediate reinstatement of Mr. Abeysekara and an investigation into the alleged misuse of EPF funds. He has also said that failing to do so will result in an International Labour Organisation inquiry into the matter.

Speaking to The Sunday Times Business,Mr. Abeysekara said that the HNB's EPF Committee is made up of the MD, two members on the nomination of MD and further two members elected at the AGM. 

"HNB's EPF suffered a loss of Rs. 20 million in 1997 from stock market investments, in 1998 the loss amounted to Rs. 23 million. The company auditors both times brought the issue to our notice. We decided to take legal action following the usage of EPF funds to buy Sampath (Bank) shares where the loss to date is in the region of Rs 120 million. The constitution of the EPF fund specifies that all losses should be borne by the Fund," he added.

Mr. Abeysekara also said that the two DGMs , D.N. Daluwatte and Upali De Silva had used Rs. 147.4 million and Rs. 127.3 million respectively from the Pension Fund and WWO Fund to buy Sampath shares.

HNB management in a letter to Sunday Times has strongly denied that Mr Abeysekara was fired in connection with the case he filed. The management maintains the fact that he was fired in relation to a inquiry about misbehaviour.

In 1998 a dispute between nine commercial banks, all members of the Collective Agreement reached a deadlock and the HNB union resorted to trade union action demanding a settlement, a senior bank executive told the Sunday Times Business in response to Mr. Abeysekera's allegations. 

The bank then obtained a stay order (under the legality of the existing collective agreement) to prevent a walk out by the union.

Things then hotted up, the executive said. The executive alleged that the union resorted to sending scurrilous literature defaming senior officials, splashed excreta on their houses, and abused their families. 

The union then resorted to banning overtime but legal clauses prevented them from enforcing it, the executive said. On April 24, when the Kotte HNB branch was working overtime, a mob led by the union leader Abeysekera had forcibly entered the premises, and demanded from the manager and assistant manger that the staff stop working. Cowed down by threats and intimidation the managers had given in but later made a police entry. The police went to Mr. Abeysekera's residence to arrest him but he was not at home, the executive said.

Mr. Abeysekera had then filed two fundamental rights petitions against the Police and the Bank. 

"We stretched two points for Mr. Abeysekera," the executive said. 

"Usually the bank appoints a senior executive for disciplinary inquiries. But the bank decided to retain F.N. de Silva, attorney at law and retired president of labour tribunal for the inquiry. The bank also did not use their option to interdict Mr. Abeysekera pending inquiry," he said.

The bank official also added that following the inquiry by an independent lawyer, both parties were asked to make written submissions within a month, which was June 30. 

But as Mr. Abeysekera asked for an extension, the submissions were finally ready only by the aend of July, he said.

"We received the report dated August 22 the following day, on August 23, we found the accused guilty of six charges of a very serious disciplinary nature," he said.

"On perusing his personal file we found his past record was poor with warnings on six previous occasions on bad conduct or performance," he added.

"In this light the bank decided to terminate his services," he said. 

In response to Mr. Abyesekera's allegations that the HNB Provident Fund had made losses by investing in the Equity market, the executive said that none of these losses were realised losses. 

He added that the Sampath shares were purchased in the directors' capacities as trustees to the fund. 

"The liabilities of the fund are long term in nature and are payable 20 or more years into the future. The acquisition of equity investments have been made taking into consideration the recommendations of the actuaries," he said. 

He added that what the auditors pointed out was the diminution in value in the portfolio in comparison to the past as of that date. The diminution was mainly due to the depressed condition of the Colombo Stock Exchange in the past few years, he added. 

"We have made provisions for Rs. 20 million and Rs. 23 million respectively in those years," he said.

He also added that employees have benefitted from 500,000 shares held by HNB with a market value then of Rs. 600/- being sold to them at Rs. 40/- per share.

The executive also pointed out that the average cost of the recently acquired Sampath Bank shares was Rs. 55/- and the HNB Provident Fund holds two million shares and therefore the bank fails to see how they could have made a loss in excess of the value of the shares.

Meanwhile the legal battle between Sampath and HNB has entered a deadlock. Even though the Central Bank decision regarding the matter was due last week, it was postponed since the Attorney General's Department has requested more time. Sampath Bank Employees Union President said, "we can not understand why Central Bank is passing the ball to AG's Department. This is a matter regarding the economy of Sri Lanka and any school child who can read the Banking Act can understand that there is a gross violation of it."

Deputy Governor of the Central Bank, Mr. W. A. Wijewardena denying all allegations. said that as a public sector organisation accountable to the country, they had to act according to the prevailing law of the country.

"We referred the matter to AG's department to get their advice. Central Bank cannot arrive at a fast decision and have it challenged by a court. Like all private sector organisations, we also need to get legal advice before acting on a matter of this nature". 

Ports offer jobs, jobs

By Dinali Goonewardene
Two high ranking Ports Authority officials have set off to Ampara to hand out one thousand letters of appointment to Ampara residents. Minister M. H. M. Ashraff has commissioned these appointments which led to the deputy medical officer and deputy personal manager of the Ports Authority being sent to Ampara last Friday, sources said. 

The move to recruit appears to be in breach of employment laws for State sector organisations which require vacancies to be advertised. The drive also appears to discriminate against certain ethnic communities.

The decision to recruit more employees last week followed in the heels of a recruitment drive, which saw 4300 employees being recruited as the election campaign hotted up. And the queue of potential recruits wound up at Kochchikade.

"The Ports should not be a job agency. It should be a service centre supporting the engine of growth," a leading exporter said. The Sri Lanka Ports Authority's trade unions were quick to petition election monitors, the bribery commission, Elections Commission and European Union Polls observers. 

But political appointments are not a new concept at the Colombo Port which saw 2000 such appointees in 1997 when labour consisted 50 per cent of the port's cost.

The Sri Lanka Ports Authority handled 1.9 mn TEU's in 1999. Of this, 1.4 mn TEU's were handled by the Sri Lanka Ports Authority, which employed 18,600 people while the South Asia Gateway Terminal (SAGT) handled 500,000 TEU's but employed 500 people. 

However employees dealing with cargo and security numbered among the Ports Authority's employees.

By July 2000 transhipment volumes declined 6-8 percent YOY. A four percent drop in container vessels arriving at the port was also witnessed. 

Ten services were pulled out of the Colombo port in the last two years. These included the MOSK line's Colombo- South Africa service and the COSCO line services to the Mediterranean and Europe. 

While Mearsk Sealand has shifted most of its business from the Colombo port to Salalah, American President Lines has transferred business to Aden. And trends show exports to India and Bangladesh are calling via Malaysia in preference to Colombo. 

Recruitment in this environment poses serious questions on the long term vision for the Colombo Port, business circles said.

New apartments in Cinnamon Gardens

By Udeshika Dissanayake
Prime Property Developers (Pvt.) Ltd. opened its second residential unit in Cinnamon Gardens last Friday.

All 12 apartments of the recently opened McCarthy Tower have been sold out contrary to claims by other developers on the difficulty of selling apartments.

"The growth in sales of luxury apartments is slow, but there is a market for the apartments. The difference is that around ten years ago you could show the customer a plan and they were ready to pay an advance, whereas now they prefer to see it complete before they come into any agreement," Mrs.Sandra Goonetilleke, General Manager, Laksmans Group of Companies said.

Another special attraction of the complex is the number of apartments. Compared with other complexes with around 50 to 100 apartments we have an advantage of having a small number of apartments at one place. Customers like to live in maximum privacy and not in a building cramped with many apartments, company officials pointed out.

Meanwhile other developers commenting on poor sales of the luxury apartments seen recently said the solution was to go to the outskirts or rent out the apartments.

Director Marketing Royal Park Consortium Jl Sang Wuk told The Sunday Times Business that the consumers were moving to the outskirts due to the heavy traffic in the city and were looking for good facilities.

The apartment market is still a small one in the country. While most Sri Lankan's prefer houses with gardens, they will catch up as in other markets in the future, he said confidently.

Director Asian Hotels Corporation Ltd, (AHCL) Manohan Nanayakkara pointed out that there was a robust rental market. Of the 152 apartments in the Crescat Residences, 50 have been sold outright andfinds occupants for the owner for a rent of between US $ 1500-US $ 2000 per month.

The project, which cost the company Rs. 85 million rupees, was partly funded by the NDB and the rest by the company. Customers were requested to make an initial payment on reservation with two instalments and a final payment on the deed of transfer.

The four storied McCarthy complex is a purely residential one with three apartments in each floor consisting of three bedrooms, plus separate quarters for domestic employees.

The apartments built in three different sizes were sold at Rs. 9.25 million, Rs. 9.5 million and Rs. 9.75 million per apartment.

The company's first project at Rosmead Place, the Rosmead Towers consisting of 40 apartments is fully occupied while another project the Horton Towers of which 50 per cent has been sold will be completed by the end year. 

"The difference between other developers and our company is that we buy the land, we do the construction and we handle the

sales unlike other companies who buy the land and hire a contractor for the building", Managing Director Mr.Pinsiri Fernando of the company said. 

The company's future plans include construction of Horton Regency a ten apartment complex with a swimming pool and gym at Horton Place and a housing project at Agulana Station Road catering to the middle class income group.

The two bed roomed apartments at Agulana will include a tiled main hall and fans in the bed rooms and will be sold for Rs. 975,000. It will be located in a land just behind the Soysapura flats company officials said.

Prime Property Developers is one of the Laksmans Group of companies of which Laksmans Housing Construction Company (Pvt.) Ltd. has built the two Laksmans Buildings at Galle Road and Duplication Road in Colombo 3 and the Lucky Plaza complex also in Colombo 3.

New system for open market operations

The Central Bank (CB) is introducing a new system of open market operations, which will lead to the market determining interest rates. A trial run of the new system will take place tomorrow and the system will be operational by Thursday, Deputy Governor, CB, W. A. Wijewardena told The Sunday Times Business.

The new system will entail the CB estimating the liquidity shortfall or surplus in the market and auctioning at the market accordingly. The bank will announce through a Reuters screen at 9.30 the amount of funds it will be releasing or siphoning from the market. 

Primary dealers and banks can then submit bids indicating the rate at which they will take up funds. Bids will be entertained till 10.00 am and the auction results announced at 10.40 am.

If any bank or primary dealer fails to borrow at the first auction a second window will be provided through which borrowing will be at a penal rate. In the case of reverse repo's the rate will be above the weighted average at the days auction while repos will be serviced at a rate above that prevailing at the first auction.

This will result in the Central Bank deciding on the amount of money released to the market while the market will determine interest rates, Wijewardena said. The system has worked conversely in the past.

Banks currently have to send sealed bids to the Central bank. However software to facilitate the new system has been developed and will be installed to facilitate screen based bidding, officials said.

The Central bank has traditionally relied heavily on open market operations in preference to other monetary policy. The present system saw the CB announce interest rates at which it would inject or siphon money out of the system. This was through the repo mechanism.

Mr. Wijewardena also contradicted the growing perception that interest rates were on the rise. He said revenue from import duties were projected at Rs. 3 bn as a result of the rupee devaluation compared to a Rs. 2 bn estimate arising from raising salaries and pensions. Spending will be within budgeted estimates, Mr. Wijewardena said. Curtailment of capital expenditure would ensure borrowings remain stable he added.

Mind Your Business

Mirror, mirror…
The writing is on the wall in the form of posters though they say it is an election offence to display them. Over the years it has been the norm for the party in power to have some of their posters printed in state institutions, which anyway undertake such tasks. Now however, selected private sector companies have been asked to do the honours. Some obliged readily expecting future favour but those who declined- including some blue chips- are anxiously awaiting the outcome of the polls, fearing reprisals.
Make hay…
The powers that be are promising a free and fair poll but everyone knows that is wishful thinking- especially those in the hotel industry. 

That is because some countries, which are vital sources of tourists, have advised their nationals that it would be better to avoid Paradise Isle during election time. 

Hence, bookings are few and far between from mid-September to mid-October. To overcome that loss in revenue, most hotels are planning very generous discounts for locals during this period at prices that will never be repeated- unless there is another poll, of course!

A captain of industry known for his efficiency and integrity was reportedly invited to be on the blue National List but the man declined the offer. 

He would rather spend his retirement- which he begins next year- in peace and quiet and away from the hurly burly of politics, he has said. But there might be still be a diplomatic posting on offer for the man, we hear, because the lady is so impressed with him.

Medium term growth prospects 

The current euphoria about the favourable economic growth in the first half of the year should not blind us to several unfavourable factors which could undermine our medium term growth prospects. The foremost amongst these is the prospect of renewed inflationary pressures which could harm the current export led growth. These inflationary pressures could come from several sources. 

Foremost among them is the increased government expenditures on largely unproductive measures to gain immediate political gains. The increased Samurdhi expenditures are a clear case of it. There are other less obvious political expenditures, which would ultimately increase the budget deficit and result in higher levels of borrowing. This is in a situation where the public finances are already strained by reduced revenues and increased expenditures. 

The escalating defence expenditures are another cause for renewed anxiety. An increase in defence expenditure by more than 1 per cent of GDP this year would require to be funded by further government borrowing. The other source of threat to medium term growth comes from the massive deficit in the trade balance. 

The deteriorating trade balance may lead to further depreciation of the currency. Such depreciation would lead to a fresh wave of inflation. This in turn could be a threat to our international competitiveness.

True the depreciation of the currency helps certain exports initially, but the tide of depreciation induced inflation could have a run away effect and choke up initial benefits. Price stability is ultimately most useful to economic growth. The third factor of significance is our inability to attract adequate foreign direct investments. Although from time to time the government and the Board of Investment(BOI) keeps announcing gains in foreign investment, these have been inadequate to support a major thrust in economic growth. 

Glossy documents praising the country's advantages hardly help in a context of domestic violence. The security situation in the North and East has now been compounded by electoral violence. While such violence may not affect industrialists directly, the image does little good to encouraging new foreign investment. 

While the country's agricultural growth in the first seven months of this year has been encouraging, there are also signs of non- sustainability. This is so with respect to food crop agriculture, where the inability to sell produce at prices above the cost of production are threatening the viability of food crop cultivation. The Yala paddy crop is likely to fall as farmers were not able to finance the needed inputs. 

The support measures for agriculture remain inadequate and technological developments are at a stand still. There are no signs of the country developing more productive commercial agriculture soon. Inadequate progress in domestic agriculture could be a serious drag for medium term growth. 

Last Sunday we focussed on several immediate factors, particularly election violence and disruptions to the smooth functioning of the economy owing to the elections. These no doubt would have an important bearing on slowing down the economy. 

The factors which we have discussed here have a more important long term bearing on economic fundamentals. Unless these economic fundamentals are healthy, there is little prospect for a high rate of economic growth in the medium and long term. The economic growth may once again dip to levels of 4 and 5 per cent. All we can hope is that once the elections are over the fundamental issues pertaining to medium term growth would be addressed seriously. The 2001 Budget scheduled soon after parliament meets would have to address these issues. 

Hard time for coconut farmers

There are misleading statements often made and seen in news reports about the coconut industry with respect to extent of land under coconut, and the annual production. It is often said that the extent of land cultivated under coconut is shrinking due to real estate property developers sub dividing lands into small building blocks and due to other infrastructure development in the country. Table 1 shows the correct position.

This increase is due to large extents that are grown in the highland homesteads of Mahaweli H area extending from Dambulla down to Nochchiyagama and the expansion of coconut cultivation on non traditional areas like Kegalle, Moneragala, Polonnaruwa and Ratnapura. These extents have offset the lands fragmented and sold by the Property Developers, and helped to reach record levels at 434,000 ha (1.1 million acres).

The other statements which is often made is that the average annual production is 2400 million nuts. Table 1 illustrates the production average for 5-year period since 1981. The yearly averages since 1994, which demonstrate a distinct increase in the nut production as seen from table 2.

For the year 2000, the published figures for the first 3 months indicate a nut production of 719 million, which is 138 million (23.8%) rise over the corresponding period production of 581 million in 1999. Contacted coconut growers indicate around 10% rise during the April/May crop (CCB & CRI, who have coconut lands under them could give their own observation). 

Even if one assumes that from April to December there is no increase in production, compared to the corresponding period last year, and only the proven increased production of the first three months are added to last year's crop of 2830 million. 

The year 2000 crop is expected to be 2968 million, with a modest 1% rise in production, from April to December, the nut production for the year 2000 will reach 3000 million nuts, approaching closely, the 1986 record of 3039 million nuts. How do we deal with the excess nut production during the year 2000?

A similar situation is likely in the year 2001, due to the lag effect of well distributed rainfall and soil fertility enhancement as promoted by CRI and CCB carried out by the growers due to surplus income generated by reasonably good nut prices from 1997 through to third quarter of 1999. 

It is indeed the severity of drought in the coconut belt as determined by the continuous rainless period expressed in days during the months of January through April that influences to a large extent the next year's crop. 

This year from January to April there was no drought and the rainfall was well distributed.

Supply Situation

With the expected crop of 3000 million, the annual per capita domestic consumption is estimated at 120 nuts (94 fresh nuts, and 3 litres of oil). If one takes out the oil consumption, the nut requirement for domestic consumption, considering a population of 19 million is 1786 million. This leaves a balance of 1214 million for the year 2000 for other uses.

There is a line of thinking that the DC manufacturers have the capacity to handle the excess supply. The annual production capacity of all DC mills is reported to be 90,000 tons, therefore, the maximum they can absorb is 750 million nuts, which is 50% more than their average annual production of 60,000 tons. 

It is suicidal to produce 90,000 when there is already a surplus situation and the DC prices are dwindling. Three countries, Sri Lanka, Philippines and Indonesia are competing for the world market.

Unless there is some understanding within the three countries, with intervention of respective governments at the highest level, prices would tumble further.

The price of DC like other commodities is determined by market forces, principally supply and demand. Highly publicised record production of 7000 tons of DC during the months of January, February, when in previous years insignificant amounts were produced during these two months, and the plummeting of prices thereafter is a demonstration of how market forces work (it is only recently that 10% reduction of production volume of Gasoline by OPEC members increased the price of gasoline threefold from $10 to $30 per barrel). It may be, that we ourselves were partly responsible for triggering the downward slide in DC price by uncontrolled production.

The number of nuts required to meet the annual requirement of oil for domestic consumption is 19 x 26 million nuts viz. 494 million nuts. This may even be less, as part of the oil obtained from the pairings, estimated to be equivalent to 116 million nuts (20%) too makes a contribution. 

Therefore it is seen that there is a surplus of nearly 200 million nuts available for the oil production for other industrial uses.

Production Cost

Table 3 demonstrates the production cost which has two components. The compulsory operational expenses as shown and the other expenses and cultural practices needed to enhance soil fertility and conserve moisture.

The latter are practices advocated by the CRI and CCB. Growers attend to these only when there is a surplus income. It is seen that compulsory operational expenses alone works out to a little over Rs. 3.00 per thousand nuts. 

It is often said that coconut is too costly in Sri Lanka, when compared to Indonesia or Philippines.

If this is so, there are reasons for this. Production cost as shown on the tables earlier, is a function of the yield and the extent. 

In Sri Lanka, smallholder extents less than 50 acres comprise nearly 99%, whereas in Indonesia, Philippines and Malaysia the most lands run into thousands of acres, therefore they benefit by the economies of the scale.

The labour legislation in those countries are not so stringent, therefore the productivity of labour is high. In Sri Lanka even a 10 acre (4 ha) extent comes under Wages Board. Further, the currency devaluations during the South Asian financial crisis depressed prices in dollar terms. In India where conditions are similar, coconut is about the same price, despite the fact that irrigated water, pumps and electricity are all subsidised, and therefore widely used by the coconut growers. 

This is why the production cost of potatoes, chillies and onions is only a fraction of our cost, and is cheaper whenever ban on imports are lifted, despite a permanent import duty of 35% and other taxes.

Coconut Prices

Figure one demonstrates the producer price of coconuts from 1980 to 2000. The price in real terms (discounted by the rate of inflation), is also shown. 

It is seen that in real terms, price as at today is the lowest during the 20-year period, except for 1986 when the price was a few rupees lower. Today's price is likely to depress further unless drastic action is taken.

The increase in the import duty of edible oil from 5% to 25% was a step in the right direction, but this has not helped to substantially reactivate the coconut oil mills or the copra producer as there is a large quantity of palm oil imported at 5% import duty, now in the market and in storage for which facilities to importers have been given at BCC storage tanks. 

When this is exhausted, at the present CIF price (which is reported to be lower after the import duty increase) palm oil could be marketed in Colombo for around Rs. 40,000.00 per ton.

To compete with this price copra/oil producer has to get nuts at around Rs. 3500. Further, copra producer, oil miller need to be given an assurance that the government policy is to promote the local oil industry, when nuts are in excess, as most mills have been lying idle for long, and need to be overhauled to commence production, and this needs investment. 

The 12.5% G.S.T. now enforced on the oil miller needs to be removed.

The genuine oil producer, and the coconut cooperatives who pay the G.S.T. cannot compete with the underground producer, and their oil mills are lying idle. Since the removal of G.S.T. needs parliamentary approval, import restriction as a temporary measure, and adjusting the import duty structure is necessary to get over the present glut of coconuts.

It is unfortunate that DC millers have closed down their own oil mills, they also could help the industry at this critical time by reactivating the oil mills at least temporarily. The market price of a kg of coconut oil, and DC right now around the same. One needs the same number of nuts (8) to produce a kg of each variety, and the saleable value of the byproducts is about the same.

One argument that is adduced in support of low import duty for edible oil imports is that it helps to keep the price the local consumer pays for fresh coconut. How true is this statement can be demonstrated from the latest newspapers. It is seen that the fresh nut price is Rs. 3.50/4.00, whereas the ratail price at Pettah market is Rs. 10.00 (150% higher). Sometime back when the fresh nut price was Rs. 9.50, the Pettah market price was Rs. 14.00 (47% higher). The lower the producer price it is the middlemen who benefit. Fig. 2 illustrates the rise in cost of living index, which is almost same as the rise in food price index, and the rise in the producer price of coconut. It clearly shows that except the years 83, 84 and 88, the rise in producer price of coconut was lower. In some years by a large margin. Table 4 shows the rise in producer price in relation to inputs.

Under circumstances when the nut production is low, and the DC market is high there is a case to lower the import duty of edible oil to enable DC millers to produce high volume, which also benefit the grower with high prices as seen from 1997 to third quarter of 1999. This helps the country to earn more foreign exchange. Right now the case is different. In fairness it must be said that the private DC miller and the coconut cooperatives have incurred heavy capital expenditure in modernising their mills, and the private miller has brought in efficiencies of private enterprise enabling most of them to pay a price to the grower which is competitive with the prices paid by the cooperatives. Nonetheless they are in business, in the event of a drop in market price, it is the grower who has to face the brunt of it.

In 1986, when we had a record production of 3039 million nuts, every one rose to the occasion. It was then DC cum oil miller, and exclusive oil miller. We exported 81,000 tons of coconut oil, earning 23 million US dollars, and 59,000 tons of DC, which earned 30 million US dollars, a sum total of 53 million US dollars. The price of one kg. of DC was 86% higher than that of coconut oil. For that year the total expenditure on imports of vegetable oils and fats was 10 million, thus a net gain of 43 million. In 1985, when we had the next highest crop of 2958 million nuts, we exported 67,000 tons of coconut oil earning 34.70 million US dollars, and 53,000 tons of DC earning 48.6 US dollars thus a total of 83.3 million US dollars. The price of DC per kg was 79% higher than that of coconut oil. 

The total expenditure on import of vegetable oils and fats was 12.8 million. Thus a net foreign exchange earning of 70.5 million US dollars. In 1999 despite high volume of DC exports, and high price of DC, our commendable earnings at Rs. 5100 million (70 million US dollars), was just enough to pay for the expenditure on import of vegetable oils and fats. Palm oil alone, we imported 93,000 tons, much of it for industrial uses. Exports of DC in 1998, realised only 66% of the expenditure on oils and fats.

Quality Control

As palm oil is freely allowed to be imported to this country without any quality controls, it is important that quality controls be imposed. Further palm oil need to be maketed as palm oil, today in the consumer market the word palm oil is not used instead it is marketed as cholesterol-free vegetable oil, as scientists at the CRI and CISIR have pointed out, there is no difference between the two as far as cholesterol is concerned, but coconut oil has other superior qualities. These matters need to be given wide publicity by the authorities.


A joint effort by all those involved in the coconut industry is necessary to overcome the present crisis and the future challenges. The coconut grower needs a thriving DC industry, it is always a good DC market price that generates a good price for the grower's nuts. There need to be a council, call it a coconut council, where, in a non aggressive environment, matters regarding the imports, tariff structure, and plantation strategy be discussed and agreed in a constructive manner.
Concerns of the Coconut grower

1. Misleading statements and news reports that the extent of land under coconut is diminishing and that the annual quantum of nut production is reducing (That demand exceeds supply thereby sending prices up).

2. The glut of 'nuts' in 2000.

3. Similar glut in 2001. (How does one create commensurate demand.

4 "Catch 22" situation - Excess production in 2000, 200 million. DC Mills producing at full capacity can take in 170 million. However increase in the production of DC will further depress already depressed DC prices. (No copra/oil industry to take in excess).

5. The non existence of a coconut "OPEC" - "Organisation of 'Coconut' Exporting Countries".

6. The farmgate price of coconuts are not in keeping with the production costs of coconuts.

7. The 'demise' of the copra and coconut oil industries.

8. No meaningful measures taken by the authorities to revive the copra and coconut oil industries. 

9. Mistaken edible oil tariff policy.

10. The import costs of edible oil negates the foreign exchange earnings from the export of DC.

11 The mistaken belief that the import of edible oils brings down the price of "curry nuts" appreciably. (It benefits the middleman).

12. Adulterated oil being sold as coconut oil.

13. Poor publicity given to the fact that coconut oil is also cholesterol-free.

14. The non-existence of an umbrella coconut body - a coconut council - to take an intrinsic view at the coconut industry and sustain its viability.


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