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Sunday, 12 June 2016

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Sri Lanka to set up a Centre of Excellence for coconut

Industry needs to focus more on exports:

Sri Lanka exports only 20% of its total coconut production as 80% is consumed within the country.


Kapila Yakandawala

"Although it is one of the top five coconut producing countries, our exports are quite limited and the demand is high in the global market," Coconut Cultivation Board, Chairman, Kapila Yakandawala said.

Over 30 percent of Sri Lanka's coconut production is lost by the wasteful household practises. This has also contributed to the low export volume, he said in an interview.

Total coconut production for last year was 3,056 million nuts and the target for this year is 3,600 million.

The five top coconut producing countries in the world are the Philippines, Indonesia, Malaysia, Sri Lanka and India.

New coconut triangle

"We have identified a new coconut triangle under the North and the East Coconut project which was launched in March this year. This new coconut triangle will be spread on 80,000 acres and rehabilitation will be carried out on 40,000 acres while new planting will be on 40,000 acres," he added.

The 'Tea and Coconut' program was also launched in March to develop the local coconut industry. This program will be carried out in many parts of the country except for a few areas in Nuwara Eliya and Badulla which do not have soil and weather suited for coconut cultivation. The seeds for this program were introduced by the Coconut Research Institute and the Rubber Research Institute.

The coconut industry will be developed under various programs and a Rs. 850 million budget allocation has been made available for the Kapruka Ayojana loan scheme and for subsidies for this year. This loan scheme and subsidies are handled by the Coconut Cultivation Board.

There are three organizations for coconut under the Ministry of Plantation Industries, namely, Coconut Cultivation Board, Coconut Development Authority and Coconut Research Institute.

Over 1,100,000 acres are under coconut cultivation at present.

"Although there are many varieties of coconut we recommend Tipika, Morok, CRIC 60, and two other Hybrid types - CRIC 65 and TSR varieties. The coconuts can be harvested in two seasons per year and the nut market has the highest demand," the chairman said.

"We cannot meet the global demand for coconut products such as virgin coconut oil. We have launched a project to increase production in the new mega coconut triangle as tea and coconut mixed production project. Measures have also been taken to increase production in existing plantations through improved seed varieties. We hope to earn US $ 1 billion from coconut and related product exports by 2020," he said.

New products

The Coconut Development Authority has taken measures to identify the process of value-addition in coconut products through discussion with industrialists. There are several new products such as coconut paste, coconut ice cream, spray dried coconut, coconut treacle, pasteurized coconut milk, coconut skimmed milk and yoghurt base.

There has been continuous research on value-addition and globally there are 300 value-added products. Sri Lanka produces 54 of those products; therefore the country has the potential to increase export earnings through value-addition.

Sri Lanka participated at the Asian Pacific Coconut Community (APCC) ministerial meeting recently in Jakarta which is the oldest network of coconut producing countries. It has a membership of 18 countries and 90 percent of world coconut production is represented by the APCC. Coconut production has seen a declining trend due to global climate changes and finding ways and means to overcome this problem was discussed. Apart from climate change there is also the pest and disease issue which has been given special focus, to increase production.

Health benefits

Coconut being a seasonal crop, price fluctuation in the local and global market is a drawback to growers. The health benefits of coconut oil had increased the demand for coconut in the world market.

At the APCC meeting, researchers collected all R&D data with regard to coconut production and issued a combined statement on nutrition and health benefits of coconut oil.

The basic discussions were centered on research and on sharing R&D among member countries. The idea to set up a gene bank was mooted at the meeting to develop the industry and exchange information among members.

The exchange of data and statistics of international prices, quality and production was also agreed upon. The APCC will be converted into an International Growers Community by combining the other 10 percent of the global coconut producing countries to create an international market facilitation platform to become a price, quality, trade and marketing interaction portal.

To further ascertain the nutrition and health benefits of coconut oil, a working committee was set up with a member from Sri Lanka. In India, the International Centre of Excellence for coconut was set up to share R&D work.

A Centre of Excellence for Coconut will be set up this year in Sri Lanka concurrent to the Indian centre. Sri Lanka has the oldest and one of the most efficient research centres in the world at Lunuwila in Bandirippuwa and the new centre to be set up this year is expected to be of the same standard, he said.

Sri Lanka is the first country to engage in the tissue culture field as far as the coconut industry is concerned.Though Philippines is the top coconut producing country, as an industry it is at the primary level and Sri Lanka is far ahead. Sri Lanka exports the most number of coconut products including virgin coconut oil, coir products and copra.

"We have a structured plan on every sector of coconut production and systematic planning to face issues such as pest and disease and will raise the bar of the coconut industry in Sri Lanka to highlight the development of the sector. We also possess recorded coconut usage documents which run back to 2,000 years, which is the oldest in the world," he concluded.

 

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