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Nur Aisha Abd. Wahab


Sunday Times



Palm oil industry growth affected due to inaction by the state
Sunday Times (28/08/2019) - Although the palm oil industry is worth Rs.26 billion which is its contribution to the Sri Lankan economy, this is not a known fact. 

There has been opposition from vested interests and from external elements to the cultivation of the palm plants in Sri Lanka following the launching of the palm oil industry. People’s protests have mounted over the planting of 10,000 hectares of palm oil plants and the industry is helpless to fight back over this issue, said President of the Palm Oil Industry Association of Sri Lanka Dr. Rohan M. Fernando at the first AGM of the association held at the Shangri-La Hotel in Colombo last Monday.

He said it was not long ago that the government of Sri Lanka approved the cultivation of 20,000 hectares of land to be cultivated with palm oil, which is less than 3 per cent of the total land of other crops such as tea, rubber and coconut. He asked whether planting 3 per cent of the land with palm oil is detrimental to other products including tea, rubber and coconut. 

Earlier approval was granted by the government for the importation of palm oil seed to the country where 500,000 plants were raised in nurseries. But subsequently the government imposed a ban on the palm oil industry due to various allegations that palm oil was harmful to the environment. The ban on palm oil has caused 550,000 palm oil plants in the nurseries of estates valued at Rs.550 million to mature and perish. Although the palm oil industry has made representations to the government, it had fallen on deaf years without a solution being found. 

Meanwhile the global palm oil industry is estimated to be around US$60 billion with Malaysia and Indonesia producing 85 per cent of the world’s supply which is used in every conceivable product such as bread, bio –diesel, snack foods, and shampoos. Palm oil is also used in cooking oil, and manufacture of pharmaceuticals and other products while food account for 70 per cent of the global consumption of palm oil. While there is opposition to the palm oil industry in Sri Lanka, Malaysia and Indonesia is expanding the palm oil industry by cultivating over 10 million hectares of palm oil while India has plans to plant palm trees over one million hectares to give a boost to the country’s economy. Currently India has around 175,000 hectares of palm oil tress and plans to develop this industry to integrate with the small holders of the palm oil industry in India.

State Minister of National Policies and Economic Affairs Dr. Harsha de Silva, Chief Guest at the event, said a recent survey showed that 97 per cent of the people approved of the Suwa Seriya, the lifesaving ambulance programme as the most successful programme the government had undertaken where within 15 minutes a life of a person afflicted with a heart attack can be saved. 

“We take around 750 critically ill persons to hospitals every day. Vested interests are so strong in the country they even protest lifesaving methods being implemented.”

He said 70 per cent of false news spreads faster than true news according to a recent finding. Referring to the Palm oil Industry Association, he advised all stake holders involved in it to get together to find a solution. 

Read more at http://www.sundaytimes.lk/article/1100139/palm-oil-industry-growth-affected-due-to-inaction-by-the-state