The Sunday Leader

Coconut a natural asset

By W. A. Sarathchandra

Usain Bolt was considered the fastest human in the world, and many would be surprised that the secret of his running achievements are ‘Coconut Milk’. Revealing this secret, he emphasizes that the supreme ‘Energy Drink’ is Coconut Milk.

However, in Sri Lanka, the view of the people is that the price of coconuts has risen to unbearable levels. We did have a discussion with Kapila Yakandawala, Chairman of the Coconut Cultivation Board, on the coconuts and the increasing price levels of coconuts.

The following are his expressions:

I do not agree on taking decisions on Coconuts depending on the current situation. Coconut, which was a unique cultivation in Sri Lanka for decades, has become a specialised ‘Political Cultivation’. In fact, considering the rise of price in various other items, the price of coconuts has not increased that much.

Take into consideration that when an office worker buys a cup of tea and a short-eat, it will cost about Rs. 120. However, there is a public view that Coconuts, that meets about 12 per cent calorie requirement for the general public, could be purchased at very low prices.

The most saddening is the low awareness of the public on the health benefits provided by coconuts. Today, there’s a huge demand for coconuts all over the world.

An additional coconut product is Cocavita, described as the exclusive Energy Drink in the world. With coconut water per single fruit being sold at US$ 10, or Rs. 1,500, one could imagine the how valuable the coconuts have become as a commercial product.

As such, Coconuts have become a huge source for foreign exchange earnings. And it should be mentioned that one reason for the Coconut controversy is selling coconuts to foreign countries to get foreign exchange.

The highest Coconut cultivation was recorded in 2016 that amounted to 3,000 million. However, in 2017, due to droughts, 600 million were lost. The average production is about 2,700 million coconuts. The lowest rainfall was recorded in 2016 for over 9 months which badly affected the coconut cultivation as well as local use and exports. That was the key reason for coconut prices going up. A decease called Maita also started spreading that that also affected the coconut cultivation.

As a nation, Sri Lanka has still not realized the value of Coconuts. It’s a tremendous asset and there are numerous ways to develop our country with Coconut cultivation. There are a number of products that could be developed with coconut cultivation. Although Sri Lankans are not aware of this venture, there is a huge demand in the world for these Coconut products.

Last year, Sri Lanka earned Rs. 814 million with Coconuts. The biggest demand is from Europe, Middle East and China.

Coconut Cultivation Board has also introduced a number of strategies to further develop coconut products. The first feature is to further develop coconut lands, especially in areas like North-East and Puttalam.

The second feature is to introduce coconut plants with higher productions.

The third is the increase Coconut Density. The venture, described as ‘A Coconut Land for a Home’ plans at least two coconut trees per house which is possible for at least 80 per cent of houses in Sri Lanka. A house with four persons could meet their coconut requirements with these two trees. In about four years, they could get the coconuts.

Dividing and selling land from Coconut lands too has become a serious issue for Coconut cultivation. When dividing land, which is over 10 acres – either Tea, Rice or Rubber – it has to get an official approval. When dividing lands which are less than 10 acres, there has to be an approval from the Local Government Authorities.

However, there are plans to bring the size of those lands from 10 acres to 5 acres. In future, there should be an official permit when cutting down coconut trees.

It is also well known that one reason for the increase in Coconut prices is a Mafia in the market. The government will intervene to solve this issue. The government will act, without intermediaries, to provide more benefits for both the cultivator and customer.

Another key feature is the culture of the country’s Coconut usage. Today, the Coconut is more wasted than used. This has been revealed through investigations by the Coconut Cultivation Board. It has been suggested that coconuts should be used with blenders and used for cooking. It will provide the best usage and quality of real Coconuts and stop the waste of about 40 per cent of the Coconut. The present Coconut usage, it is revealed, will waste about 1,000 million Coconuts per year.

It is our responsibility to Use and not Waste Coconut.

The Coconut Cultivation Board is always ready to assist the Coconut cultivation. There are plans to encourage Coconut cultivators as well as new cultivators, providing them with assistance. Also they could get loans with very low interest rates.

All these assistance could be obtained through our representatives in the Divisional Secretariat offices. The loans could be obtained with only 4.5 per cent interest.

When Coconut prices are going up, always have the determination to plant at least two coconut trees on your land. You can get good quality plants.

Coconut is our natural asset and not only a food, but also enlightens our lives providing opportunities to achieve massive foreign earnings?

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