ISSN: 1391 - 0531
Sunday April 27, 2008
Vol. 42 - No 48
Financial Times  

Probe on sustainability of Regional Plantation Companies

By Bandula Sirimanna

A combination of falling production and low estate performance has triggered a need to assess the Regional Plantations Companies (RPCs). Management and development deficiencies in estates leased out to RPCs are to be identified and effectively handled to contribute its share as a partner to attain macro-economic stability in the country.

A 10-member committee appointed to look into these issues in state-owned estates leased out to the private sector will make its preliminary recommendations in an interim report within the next two months.

Speaking to The Sunday Times FT, Chairman of the Committee Neville Piyadigama said they appointed four sub committees to look into issues such as replanting and application of fertilizer, sub leasing, labour and infrastructure development, upgrading labourer lifestyles and increasing profitability by improving efficiency. The RPCs manage around 30 to 35% of the tea extent and the balance area, 65% to 70% are with tea smallholders who are equally affected by some of these deficiencies.

The committee will also look into key areas like mineral rights, sub-leasing of estates, compensation for lands acquired, new rent agreements and so forth. He noted that some regional plantation companies came under fire recently for sub-leasing their lands to third parties without the consent of the the government. He said these companies were facing global, regional and domestic challenges resulting in low performances.

Piyadigama said the Ministry of Plantation Industries has formulated a National Plantation Industry Policy (NPIP) Framework to increase the growth rate of the plantation sector by two percent per annum during the next five years. The committee will evaluate the performance of RPCs and seek views of stakeholders on issues such as land ownership, replanting, labour productivity, soil erosion, forestry, gemming and productivity levels of RPCs.


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