The Sunday Leader

Stop Touching Plantations, PAC Warns Govt.

Any diminution in Sri Lanka’s ailing plantation industry, especially within the Regional Plantation Companies (RPC) sector will have far reaching consequences not only plantation employees but to the economy as a whole, country’s plantation industry umbrella body – Planters’ Association of Ceylon (PAC) warned the government.

The PAC issued this statement in the midst of rumours that the government would initiate measures including splitting of estates to streamline the plantation sector and increase productivity and profitability.

Delivering his Budget 2017 Speech, Finance Minister Ravi Karunanayake lamented that at the end of almost 25 years following privatization, the country observed that the performance (of the sector) has been erratic, with investments in modern equipment and agricultural practices in RPCs being inadequate with, misuse of the assets and hence productivity remaining to be a worrisome issue.

“As such, for more effective management, the maximum acreage that can be held by any stand-alone company, without being allowed to consolidate will be restricted to 5,000 acres. However, we will ensure that there will be no loss of employment. RPCs will be granted the first right of refusal, when being allocated land.”

Meanwhile Lalin I De Silva of the Ceylon Planters’ Society earlier opined that rampant mismanagement was the no 1 reason for the fall of the plantation sector.    (See http://www.thesundayleader.lk/2017/01/01/market-prospects/ )

“We believe that the industry today remains a ‘world class case study’ for mismanagement and is being killed due to poor quality decision making. Wrong and unsustainable policies set by the successive governments since the initial nationalization of the plantations too are to be blamed, to begin with,” he lamented.

“We feel sorry as we believe that some of the owners of the Regional Plantation Companies (RPCs) are being fed with garbage by the heads of certain RPCs at times. Blindfolding the superiors with sinister motives attached to these strategies is not short supply in the plantation culture right from the very inception.

May be it has gone high tech during present times amplifying the impact.”

According to PA Chairman, Sunil Poholiyadde despite continuing hardships arising out of adverse weather conditions, diminishing availability of labour and significant declines in commodity prices, RPCs continued their investments into the estate sector as evidenced by cumulative investments by RPCs reaching Rs. 70 billion between 1992 and 2016.

“During this same period, RPCs contributed substantially toward Government revenue through lease rentals which stood at Rs. 6.69 billion, income tax which accounted for a further Rs. 1.72 billion while dividends were also released to Sri Lankan shareholders over the period from privatization amounting to a total value of Rs. 8.17 billion.”

“The RPC sector has also led the way in terms of replanting, accounting for 24,575 hectares out of a total 36,766 hectares of replanted tea in the RPC Estates of Sri Lanka. Including RPC rubber plantations, the sector’s new planting and re-planting has covered an extent of 37,971 hectares while the RPCs lost a further 4,420 hectares of land to acquisitions by the State and others. The percentage of replanting/new planting in both Tea and Rubber in the RPCs easily surpasses the percentage rate of replanting in both the Tea Smallholder and Rubber Smallholder sectors, both of which receive extensive subsidies, financial assistance and other benefits from the state.”

 

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