Coconut crisis will end in six months bringing down prices – CGASL Past president

by Harischandra Gunaratna

The coconut crisis will continue to remain for at least another six months and the price will thereafter drop to about Rs 30, said Immediate Past President of the Coconut Growers Association of Sri Lanka Parakrama Jayatillake.

He said the main reason for the skyrocketing price of coconuts was due to the coconut growers having deviated from the practice of using fertilizer due to the high price and the reduction in the number of coconut growers.

He said that coconut is grown in one million acres of land in the country and of that only 10 per cent use fertilizer, thus, resulting in a drop in the yield.

Jayatillake warned that importing coconuts would not be solution to the problem as the plantations in Kerala, from where the government is importing coconuts, are afflicted with the disease known as ‘Kerala Wilt’ and the practice could lead to the spread of that disease in the plantations here.

"Already thousands of acres of coconut in the Southern Province have been destroyed by the disease called ‘Weligama Wilt’ and we have to take precautions and be careful in what were are doing now to avert the crisis," he pointed out.

Addressing a media conference in Colombo, he blamed the successive governments for not addressing the problem and allowing it to reach alarming proportions.

If they had the foresight they wouldn’t have allowed it to reach the situation that we are in today, he said.

The President of the Association, Anton Nishantha Fernando, said that the low production and increased demand contributed to the high price of coconuts.

"We welcome the government’s decision to provide the coconut growers a 50 Kg bag of fertilizer at the subsidized rate of Rs 1,000 and this will help the coconut growers reach the required target in about three years time," he said adding that the establishment of the Coconut Industries Ministry by the government augurs well for the future of the industry.

"Our Association agreed to supply a coconut to the government at Rs 28 to overcome the present crisis," he said.

The alternative to averting the crisis is not importing coconuts but using alternatives such as packeted coconut milk and other coconut substances he said.

Fernando said that 70% of the coconut production in the country is used for domestic consumption

Responding to a query on whether the blocking out of fertile coconut land by real estate companies had contributed to this debacle, Parakrama Jayatillake answered in the negative and said it is only one percent of the coconut lands that have been taken for the purpose and those were mainly the lands bordering main roads and adjacent to them.

Jayatillake said that a wrong impression has been created in the minds of the public saying that the coconut growers are making huge profits but it is actually the middle men who enjoy the profits.

Jayatillake also said that there was about 10 percent wastage in domestic consumption and this should be avoided.

The coconut growers should be encouraged to use organic fertiliser as much as possible and the government should provide every possible assistance where this was concerned, Jayatillake pointed out.

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