Tsunami disrupts cinnamon peeling
Cinnamon peeling has been disrupted by the deadly tsunamis which ravaged the island's coastal areas on December 26. Sri Lanka is the world's largest producer of 'true' cinnamon, with the botanical name Cinnamomum Zylanicum, known for its distinct flavour and taste.

While cinnamon plantations in the south were not damaged, cinnamon peelers, many of whom live on the coast, were affected by the huge waves that wiped out entire villages.

"There's very little damage to cinnamon plantations in the south but every family in the area has been affected," said Sarada de Silva, chairman of the Spice Council and himself a big cinnamon exporter.

"The entire production has come to a standstill. Most peelers, who live along the coastal belt, have been affected very badly. We don't see any production taking place for quite some time." Many peelers were homeless while those not affected were busy helping others whose lives have been disrupted by the disaster.

"Even though estates suffered very little damage, we're in the tail end of the second season which ends in January," de Silva said. "Even if people get back to cinnamon peeling in February we can't peel because there'll be drought when very little peeling can be done. It'll take some time for us to recover. So we won't have much production till about April." Transport is also a problem with the Galle road being washed away in many places and alternate roads going through the interior now over-crowded. "So getting what ever produce available is a little difficult at the moment," de Silva said.

The workforce engaged in peeling has been dislocated with most of the families along the coast who survived the tsunamis having moved 5-10 km inland and living with friends and relations. De Silva said members of the Sri Lanka Cinnamon Association and Spice Council were moving around the area giving dry rations to refugees and helping conduct medical camps.

"It's not just a question of feeding the displaced. We're now looking to see how we can give them permanent help. They need to get back to their homes which need to be re-built." Sri Lanka produces more than 90 percent of the world's genuine cinnamon, Finance Minister Sarath Amunugama said in his budget speech last year where he announced incentives for the industry. Cheap low quality alternatives have begun to enter the global market leading to increased competition, he warned, adding that efforts to give Ceylon Cinnamon maximum protection under the WTO agreement are being intensified.

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