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Cosmetics from palmyrah


PDB Chairman Pasupathy
Seevarathinam

In a novel concept, Pasupathy Seevarathinam chairman of the Palmyrah Development Board (PDB), has decided to produce cosmetic items out of the palmyrah palm. He said plans are afoot to manufacture face creams, face wash and other creams where the natural base will be palmyrah. Research is underway to expedite the process, he said. Plans are also underway to use modern technology in the palmyrah industry, he said.

School children plant a palmyrah plant
Some women separating palmyrah cream
A handicraft item made from palmyrah leaves

The industry still functions as a cottage industry and its development depends on modern technology being incorporated. Local palmyrah products have a demand in the local and foreign market Seevarathnam said in an interview with the Sunday Observer.

"Two model handicraft villages have been set up in Maciyapiddy in the North and Thalankudah in the East. Facilities have been developed in these villages to help the people who produce palmyrah handicraft products", the Chairman said.

He said that six such villages will be set up in the Northern and Eastern provinces. These villages will be set up in Mailambaveli in Batticaloa, Navithanveli in Ampara, Patthinipuram in Trincomalee, Karaveddi in Jaffna, Kiranchi in Kilinochchi and Selvapuram in Mullaitivu. PDB has the capacity to train 75 to 100 persons in the handicraft industry. There are 47 teachers in the PDB and they will be used to train people in the handicraft industry. A teacher can provide training to 50 to 60 persons", he said.

"Due to various reasons such as marginalization in the community, difficulty to climb tall trees and other reasons people are not interested to carry on in the industry. The PDB is paying close attention to produce food items and other goods using modern technology.

Technology is the main obstacle that is restraining the industry. the PDB has succeeded in producing Yoghurt from palmyrah cream.

This industry is the livelihood of a large number of people in the North and East. After the restoration of peace, the palmyrah industry has achieved considerable development, he said.

PDB has the capacity to train 75 to 100 persons in the handicraft industry. There are 47 teachers in the PDB and they will be used to train people in the handicraft industry. A teacher can provide training to 50 to 60 persons", the Chairman said.

He said that thousands of people can be trained by the people who were trained by the PDB. Rupees million 5,000 which was given by the Japanese Government will be utilised to set handicraft model villages and encourage the people who operate handicraft industry.

"The necessity to develop the industry was felt because a large number of widows, differently abled persons and poor families depend on the palmyrah industry in the North and East. The war on terrorism had a severe impact on this industry destroying thousands of palms", he said.

"Palmyrah is a unique resource to the North and the East. According to our ancestors over 801 benefits can be taken from a single palmyrah palm. This invaluable industry was in the phase of destruction for nearly 30 years. After the dawn of peace the Government has taken steps to develop the industry", he said.

The PDB was founded in 1978, but there was no development due to the war situation in the North and East. The people who were operating the cottage industry were directly affected by it", he said.

The living standards of people who depended on it had a tough time. But now the industry is improving and the income of these people has also increased, he said.

"The Government has allocated Rs. 60 million to improve the industry and two thirds of this allocation was used to to develop cooperative societies which depend on the palmyrah industry and to improve the living standards of people who depend on this industry. Assistance was also extended to develop institutions which produce handicraft items", the Chairman said.

"Palmyrah palms are a unique resource to the North and the East. There are 11 million palmyrah palms in the country and the major portion of trees are found in the North and East", he said.

Over 8,000 families depend on the palmyrah industry in the Batticaloa district. They get an income of about Rs. 6,000 to Rs. 12,000 per month, he said.

"The palmyrah yam is produced in the Batticaloa district. PDB has provided machinery and other equipment to prepare nursery beds and necessary technical assistance to maintain the nursery.

The people who depend on the production of this yam receive sufficient income per month", he said.

According to a survey nearly 3.5 million palmyrah palms were destroyed during the conflict. Steps have been taken to replant these trees.

Palmyrah seeds were planted even during the conflict but there was no proper plan and the palms died.. Palmyrah palms are cut causing damage to the industry. A cabinet paper is being prepared and will be submitted soon to stop such activities and to protect the industry. The PDB gives permission to cut only 20,000 mature palmyrah palms per year. PDB officers will monitor this program, he said.

Steps have been taken to plant 500,000 seeds or sapligs every year. villagers are encouraged by the PDB to cultivate the palm", Seevarathinam said.

"Activated charcoal can be produced from palmyrah charcoal.

Machinery used in the industry
 

We have enough palmyrah fibre. We approached various sections for assistance to improve the palmyrah fibre industry. But we received no response so far. Palmyrah fibre has enough income generating capacity if it is processed using high technology. Cost of production however is high. The private sector is willing to enter the industry. Cost and marketing are the main problems they face", he said.

" We are unable to compete in the international market because production cost is high. High quality fibre can be produced in Sri Lanka if proper technology was used and marketed at a reasonable price. Sri Lankan fibre has enough demand at international level but production cost is an issue ", the Chairman said.

Handicraft item

"We have no plans to introduce new varieties of palmyrah seed. But when buying seed for cultivation quality and size of seeds are considered", he said.

"It will take around fifteen years to reap the benefit from a palmyra tree, but once it reaches maturity it will provide enough benefit to last a lifetime", he said.

"We have enough demand for handicraft items in Sri Lanka and foreign countries as well. During the rainy season, palmyrah leaves will be affected by fungus. This is also a challenge faced by the handicraft industry. Research is being conducted and we hope to find a solution after the conclusion of the research, he said.

"We have improved the handicraft industry after 2010, small teams consisting of handicraft producers have been set up. This activity has made the works of PDB easy and opportunity has arisen to improve the industry", he said.

Western countries request for palmyrah products made from palmyrah leaves because unlike plastic items these items have no side effects.

Under the "Divi Neguma" rural development program the PDB distributed equipment to those who produce Palmyrah based products and production has increased. , he said.

"We produce valuable products from cream toddy. The number of people collecting drop cream toddy is on the decline due to the risk of climbing and other reasons", he said.

"Palmyrah grows well in sandy areas like Kulattana, Mamunai areas.

We have set up farms in the places where Palmyrah grows fast", he said.

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