Financial Times

Moneragala to be developed as Sri Lanka’s rubber industry hub

About 40,000 hectares of land in the Moneragela District is to be cultivated with rubber at a cost of Rs.2.6 billion under the small plantation enterprises development programme as the future of the rubber industry looks positive with the demand for Sri Lankan natural rubber gaining momentum from western countries Minister D.M Jayaratne said.

Plantations Minister D.M Jayaratne is seen inspecting the rubber plant nursery at Kumbukkana in Moneragala

He said that the US, United Kingdom and Germany looked for Sri Lankan natural rubber among its immediate South Asian neighbours, India and Pakistan too indicating a keen interest in the product. The price of a smoked rubber kilo was Rs.192 while crepe rubber fetched Rs.185, rates most commendable in recent times. He added that “these prices indicated a better future for our natural rubber products and it was a positive signal to the industry.” Moneragela and Hambantota Districts will be given priority in the implementation of this massive rubber cultivation project.

The Minister said that Moneragela District will be transformed as the main centre for high quality latex production. This new rubber cultivation project will be continued till the year 2016. About 1,500 acres of land has been cultivated with rubber last year and another 2,500 acres of land will come under the new rubber plantations this year .

In a bid to save the existing rubber lands, the Ministry would take steps to avoid fragmentation of rubber lands which are less than ten acres. "These lands are being used for real estate projects by finance companies. A singe person could easily maintain such a small rubber land and it should not be fragmented for other purposes as we are in dire need of rubber," said Minister Jayaratne.

It is expected to increase rubber cultivation by 5% each year, under a ten-year development plan of the government in order to meet future natural rubber demand. Around 180,000 metric tones of natural rubber will be needed by 2016 as the demand for the natural rubber would increase gradually. Minister Jayaratne noted that proper utilisation of existing rubber land use will promote the cultivation in non-traditional areas and will help to improve the sector in the long run.

Minister Jayaratne recently visited the Moneragala District to inspect the progress of the project. He also inspected Kumbukkana Government rubber plant nursery and Wellassa private nursery in the District. He also attended a work shop of rubber cultivators in the area. The Minister issued a directive to relevant officials to take over lands for rubber cultivations promptly. He told the cultivators that the replanting subsidy has been increased from Rs. 49,000 to Rs. 100,000 per hectare for the expansion of the rubber industry.

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