Sri Lanka plantations companies enticed by spice

Aug 20, 2009 (LBO) - Sri Lanka's listed plantations companies are getting into spice cultivation, drawn by the opportunities offered by their vast land holdings and the reputation for the island's crops, officials said. As many as 12 of the 18 plantation companies listed on the Colombo bourse have diversified and gone into the production of spices, said Chris Fernando, vice chairman of the Spices & Allied Products Producers™ & Traders™ Association (SAPPTA).

The companies, which grow mainly tea, rubber and coconut, have diversified into cultivation of cinnamon, pepper, cashew and cardamoms.

The association, which represents the spice trade's different players - from producers and processors to traders and exports - has long tried to lobby for plantations companies to do more spice cultivation.

Officials said the firms could make use of their land holdings to grow spice crops not only for the local market, which faces shortages in certain spices such as cocoa and cashew, but for export as well.

For instance, Sri Lankan confectionary manufacturers continue to import cocoa beans and cocoa butter to meet their requirements.

"This is the ideal time for plantations companies to go into cocoa produ

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