Sri Lanka plans draconian new laws to curb coconut farmers; new disease threatens crop

Feb 19, 2008 (LBO) – Sri Lanka is planning draconian new laws to limit the rights of coconut farmers to put land to alternative uses and cut import duty on coconut oil as prices soared and a new pest hit groves in the island. Disease and clearance of coconut land for development have helped reduce production of coconuts in Sri Lanka, leading to a scarcity a government minister claimed.

“Low rainfall and scarcity of water affect coconut crops and over 200,000 acres of coconut trees have been felled,” Salinda Dissanayake, minister of coconut development, told reporters. “That is the reason for lower production.”

He attributed the high price of nuts to low crops during this time of year as well as the cumulative effects of bad weather and loss of land under coconut cultivation for housing and factories.

Dissanayake told a meeting at the coconut cultivation board Tuesday that in February this year, production dropped sharply, creating a scarcity in the markets which led to a coconut price hike.

Meanwhile a new bacterial disease, phytoplasma, has hit coconut groves in the southern coastal belt, foricing tens of thousands of trees to be destroyed, officials said.

The coconut price has increased to 36 rupees