A special meeting was held on the 11th of January 2022 between the Palm Oil Association of Sri Lanka (POIASL) and Her Excellency, Dewi Gustina Tobing, Indonesia’s recently-appointed Ambassador to Sri Lanka. The present role of, and challenges faced by, the oil palm industry in Sri Lanka were discussed at the meeting, with the intention of obtaining support, expertise and assistance from Indonesia, the world’s biggest producer of palm oil.
The POIASL delegation was well received by the Ambassador at her offices and the President of the Association, Dr Rohan Fernando, who is also the Managing Director of Elpitiya Plantations PLC, led the discussions. The outcome of the meeting was positive and the Ambassador agreed to engineer cooperation between the two nations to strengthen smallholder involvement in cultivating oil palms.
The potential for economic emancipation and rural development through oil palm cultivation by smallholders was also highlighted at the meeting. It was pointed out that smallholders account for more than 40% of oil palm plantations in Indonesia, and that this trend has seen huge socio-economic development within that country’s rural sector. Replicating this in Sri Lanka could increase prosperity for rural communities, while also reducing Sri Lanka’s foreign exchange spending on edible oil imports.
Sustainable palm oil was also a key topic of discussion, particularly the Indonesian Sustainable Palm Oil (ISPO) programme. Sri Lanka too is keen to develop its palm oil industry in a sustainable way and significant progress has already been made in this field and implementation is successfully underway. In fact, Sri Lanka’s palm oil industry has already achieved 11 of the UN Sustainable Development Goals. Furthermore, Sustainable palm oil has been shown to be linked to many indicators with regard to positive socio-economic development.
Thus, Indonesia is ideally suited to act as a guide for Sri Lanka as Indonesia’s economy has received significant boosts as a result of smallholder involvement, particularly in rural areas. The POIASL is keen to create such economic opportunities in Sri Lanka as well, leveraging Indonesia’s expertise in the field.