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Tuesday, 18 December 2012

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‘Underutilized lands help drop in coconut yields’

The Sri Lankan Coconut Cultivation Board (CCB), said that one of the reasons for the drop in coconut yields, was due to coconut lands being underutilized and the numbers of trees required for an acre being below the standard rate. At one time, Sri Lanka was one of the leading coconut exporters in the region, which exported coconuts to many European and Asian markets, but had now lost its position due to manifold reasons.

According to CCB standards stipulated, the number of trees for an acre was 65 and most of the large and small lands have grown below the required level, CCB Chairman Sarath Keerthiratne said. Currently, there were more than one million acres under coconut plantation and most of the lands had been under utilized throughout the country. The reason being that an average number of trees for an acre was around 35 - 40 trees, which was below the required level.

During the recent past, coconut prices had shot up to more than Rs 65 pre nut, which was far above the average price in the Sri Lankan market, due to the acute shortage of coconuts. Due to that reason, many Sri Lankan households were unable to afford that much and used various other substitutes, such as milk powder for cooking purposes. But today, prices have come to a stable level due to the increase of its yield in certain parts of the country.

Currently, the CCB has taken the initiative to promote coconut cultivation in the North and the Eastern regions which had been

neglected for more than three decades, due to the war situation in the country, the Chairman said.

The country’s annual coconut requirement was 2.6 billion nuts and their target was to achieve 3.5 billion with the promotion of coconut

cultivation in the North and the Eastern region and by providing subsidies for other lands to fill vacancies, he said.

The CCB implements a loan scheme to assist growers to develop coconut lands through a “Coconut Based Farming Systems.” Growers can apply loans for certain requirements, he added.

Keerthiratne said that new plantations would be promoted mainly in the North and the East to grow one hundred thousand acres.

Replanting senile of plantation, rehabilitation of coconut plantations, inter-cropping in coconut plantations and irrigation of coconut plantations would be done in traditional coconut growing areas to increase the yield to meet the ever increasing demand and to control the price of coconuts, he said. The government’s fertilizer subsidy was becoming popular and more than one million coconut land owners have applied for it, he said.

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