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Sunday, 26 December 2010

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Govt steps up coconut cultivation



Minister Jagath Pushpakumara

Encouraging people, especially the younger generation on the importance of replanting coconut trees is the only solution to ease the shortage.

A gazette notification, issued by the Government even at this juncture on the ban of felling coconut trees is also commendable and if this is strictly monitored, nobody will talk about import of coconuts.

Except for a few people, majority do not plant coconut trees even at their own home gardens who own acres and acres of lands. The authorities must take action against them.

In addition, they must also be vigilant on the clearing of valuable coconut lands by individuals and property development entrepreneurs.

It is reported that over ten thousand acres of coconut lands in Kurunegala, Pannala and Negombo districts were sold by property developers for commercial purposes during the past two years.

This is also a crime when thinking of well grown coconut lands being blocked out for other purposes.

It is the general opinion that the Government must urge Local Government authorities and Gramaseva Niladaris to keep a close tab on partitioned coconut lands and also neglected coconut lands in their respective areas.


Well grown plantation in the Coconut Triangle

Thereafter, they could report to authorities for further action.

Coconut Development and the Janata Estate Development Board (CDJEDB) Minister Jagath Pushpakumara, in an interview with Sunday Observer said the Government had taken steps to plant over four million coconut saplings all over the country under a special program which is to be launched in January next year.

He said this massive coconut cultivation program will be carried out with the assistance of Samurdi beneficiaries, Ranaviru families and the members of village Civil Defence committees.

In addition, schoolchildren from Grade six will be educated on the importance of planting coconut saplings and protecting existing coconut trees.

Under this program schoolchildren will do coconut cultivations in their home gardens and also take part in educational programs that are related to the strengthening of the industry.

"Children who work tirelessly in coconut development programs will be given scholarships at their GCE (OL) and (AL) examinations," he assured.

Minister Pushpakumara also rejected allegations that the country's coconut cultivation will be badly affected and coconut growers will get discouraged due to import of coconuts.

He said the decision to import coconuts was taken by the Government as a temporary measure to meet the demand during the Christmas and New Year festival season.

"Although a decision has been taken to import coconuts, we also monitor the situation whether countrywide coconut growers pledge their support by supplying required nuts to the market during this week,". The Minister said that steps would be taken to grant a fertilizer subsidy next year to large, small and medium scale coconut growers.

"Under this program, even home grown coconut cultivators could obtain fertilizer at reasonable prices,".

He said in addition, the Government's objective is to protect all agricultural products including tea, rubber, paddy, vegetable and other major products by granting fertilizer subsidy.

Minister Pushpakumara also spoke of the Weligama Wilt disease that resulted the cutting down of a large number of coconut trees during the past few months and said that steps have already been taken to prevent the spreading the disease to other areas.

He said, that he directed relevant authorities in the Coconut Cultivation Board and the Coconut Development Authority to supervise disease affected trees and take measures to cut down trees without further delay.

He said importing of raw coconuts cannot be stopped overnight according to trade agreements, signed between Sri Lanka and other countries, but wish to speak to relevant persons in this regard.

Minister Pushpakamara also said the Coconut Cultivation Board is willing to visit coconut lands or estates to assist growers to pluck the nuts and buy them.

They can contact the Coconut Cultivation Board office in Colombo on 011286133 for further information.


Withered coconut trees

A senior Coconut Cultivation Board official, Gamini Ekanayaka told the Sunday Observer that steps have been taken to provide coconuts at Rs. 30 from their stores at Vauxhall Street and opposite Coconut Cultivation Board to people during the next few days.

He said in addition, 10 lorries have been deployed at Ja-ela, Wattala, Dematagoda, Colombo and many other areas to distribute coconuts at Rs. 30 each.

"Coconuts are also distributed through Co-operatives and Lak Sathosa branches,"

Meanwhile, Coconut Growers Association (CGA), President Anton Fernando cautioned authorities to be vigilant on coconuts that are to be imported, since worldwide coconut plantations have already been affected by two dangerous diseases, the Weligama Wilt and Asariya Mika.

"There is no shortage of coconuts in the country, authorities must adopt a correct method to visit estates and collect them at reasonable prices," he assured.

He said over 1,300 direct members of the CGA and 700,000 coconut growers are ready to help the Government's endeavour of providing more coconuts during the forthcoming festive season.

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