Sri Lankan coconut growers seen giving up cultivation

Jan 08, 2009 (LBO) – Sri Lankan coconut growers are giving up cultivation and selling estates for housing as prices of nuts have fallen too low to be remunerative, a left-wing parliamentarian representing cultivators said. “Coconut cultivators want a stable price that will cover their production costs,” said Namal Karunaratne, convenor of the Joint Organization of Coconut Cultivation and a lawmaker of the Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (People’s Liberation Front).

“Then they will look after their palms and estates.”

Prices of nuts fluctuate too much and farm gate prices are usually not enough to give a adequate return to farmers, he said.

Coconut estates with fertile trees were being blocked off and sold for housing with local government officials being bribed to circumvent laws preventing the sale of coconut land, he charged.

Cultivators were demanding more government support for the industry, which provides an important part of the Sri Lankan diet, supplies raw material for several industries and employs about 135,000 people.

The extent of land under coconut was diminishing gradually while yields and export earnings had also fallen.

Several desiccated coconut and coconut oil mills had been force