Coconut growers are vehemently opposing the Government’s attempts to import fresh unhusked coconut, saying it would ruin coconut cultivation in Sri Lanka.
The Coconut Growers Association at an emergency meeting on Tuesday at Ramada Hotel, Seeduwa noted that mite disease that is now in Sri Lanka has affected 30 per cent of the cultivation which has been there for the last 20 years. Members said that that mite has come from Kerala through illicit means of smuggling and it first infested Kalpitiya.
The CGA said that they are launching a strong lobbying campaign against the import of fresh coconut and urged the government not to destroy the good name that the Sri Lankan coconut has gained.
Jayantha B. Samarakoon, President, Coconut Growers Association (CGA) told the meeting that that if fresh coconut or frozen kernel is imported it would bring in the same fate that is haunting the tea industry where low quality tea is mixed with Sri Lankan tea and re-exported which would affect the reputation that the country has earned of ‘Pure Ceylon Tea’.
“There is uniqueness in our coconut, especially in the desiccated coconut – unique in colour, texture and sweetness which the DC produced in other countries like Indonesia, Malaysia and the Philippines do not have,” he said adding that for this reason a ton of DC exported from Sri Lanka fetches US$3,500 whereas the other countries fetch only around $2,900 per ton.
Mr. Samarakoon said that the moment fresh nuts are imported and mixed with the coconut of this country, the reputation of unique Sri Lanka coconut would vanish. He said that due to these reasons nobody in the coconut industry opts for the import of neither fresh nuts nor frozen kernel.
As far as he knew, he said that the pressure for imports is coming from four large scale manufacturers of coconut milk and coconut cream.
He said that if fresh coconut is imported from a country like Indonesia where their cultivation has been affected by around 10 diseases, some deadly, these would come to Sri Lanka too.
Coconut production in the country has gone down due to the prolonged drought and the mite disease. With the announcement of imports prices in the market place have also fallen to Rs. 75 from Rs. 100. (Quintus)
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