The romance of the coconut
The price of coconuts contributes significantly to the cost of living
which is everyone's concern today. Specially people of the lesser income
groups find that buying coconuts for daily consumption is tough. While
the coconut is indispensable in the daily cooking of all Sri Lankan
households the average Sri Lankan household finds it difficult to
prepare the traditional pol sambol because the price of coconuts is
The reasons for the high price of coconuts are many, the most
important being the wanton destruction of a large number of productive
coconut trees for buildings and development purposes, a shortfall of the
coconut crops due to poor manuring and the continued neglect of some
large extends of coconut plantations.
On the other hand due to the lack of proper transport facilities and
the high cost of transport specially the coconut smallholders are denied
a fair opportunity to directly transport their coconuts to the towns for
marketing. As a result wholesale traders or their carefully chosen
middlemen visit the villagers and buy their coconuts at a comparatively
low price and sell them at very exorbitant rates in the towns and
thereby make huge profits virtually fleecing the helpless consumers.
It is common knowledge that as the country's population increases we
need more and more coconuts for domestic consumption. However, the land
suitable for coconut cultivation in Sri Lanka is limited. Therefore,
action should be taken to see that the production of the already
available coconut lands is stepped up to get the maximum production. In
no way should we allow the destruction of healthy coconut palms.
For instance, some of the large scale industries, massive housing
projects and the drawing of over-head main wires for the supply of
electricity have resulted in the destruction of thousands of healthy and
productivity coconut tress. In this connection the Government's recent
directive to ban the cutting down of coconut trees throughout the
country is really admirable.
Another very important reason why there is an acute shortage of
coconuts is because of the trade in young coconuts (kurumbas) / Plucking
these young coconuts means the prevention of these nuts from maturing
It is common knowledge that daily throughout the country thousands of
young coconuts are virtually stripped off our coconut palms mainly to
quench our thirst which can be easily realised by having any other cool
drink or even water. In this connection specially with the current
coconut crisis it seems timely that the selling of young coconuts be
completely banned at least for some time.
Another thing which we should discourage people doing is the use of
coconuts in religious, decorative and other festive occasions. Specially
because of the present crisis no right thinking person should use
coconut flowers on any occasion as this surely means the destruction of
many nuts which will reach full maturity if left on the trees.
Another very sensible thing our housewives should do is to use
suitable alternatives for cooking instead of using coconut milk.
Particularly the large scale coconut producers in the country should be
given enough incentives by the state to step up their production by
fertilizing their plantations well and they should also be encouraged to
use modern planting methods.
Another very effective method would be to aim at making all
households in the country self-sufficient in their coconut requirements.
Where space is available households should be encouraged to grow a few
high yielding coconut palms which would eventually help our households
to become self-sufficient in their coconut requirements and this should
be done immediately.
Sri Lanka has a unique reputation as being a coconut producing
country and we must strive hard to maintain this reputation. Also it's
time we banned the export of coconuts and coconut products until the
domestic requirement of this precious nut can be met satisfactorily.
The romance or the story of the coconut is quite interesting and it
is shrouded in history and legend. The coconut is one of the commonest
fruits (if I may call so) or nuts in Sri Lanka and today it is one of
the most talked of subjects in this country. Besides using coconuts for
milk in our daily cooking there are various other uses to which it is
In fact there is no other plant which is as widely used as the
coconut tree and all its parts are used for some utility purpose or the
A large number of articles are made from its trunk and its leaves are
also used in building purposes. Rope made out of its specially cured
fibre is put to many uses and even the charcoal obtained from burning
coconut shells is put to good use by man.
From time immemorial the coconut palm is a plant that has drawn the
interest and curiosity of both the kings and commoners of this country
and there are several fascinating legends and folklore associated with
its origin and most of these legends are essentially eastern in
The commonest belief is that the coconut, specially the king coconut
or the thembili, is one of the luckiest trees to be grown in the
vicinity of homes and there is another common belief that the coconut
tree thrives best within the range of the human voice. There are also
several superstitious beliefs about the coconut that it is a favourite
nut of the gods and specially its flowers are used in certain religious
and cultural activities in the country.
Though there are many legends associated with the origin of the
coconut tree no one is certain of its origin. The Mahavamsa too mentions
about the coconut tree and its cultural and historical significance in
Sri Lanka from the time of the very early Sinhala kings who ruled this
Water of the king coconut is said to have been used to prepare the
plaster for the world famous Ruwanweliseya in historic Anuradhapura.
The Chinese traveller, Fa Hien found coconuts flourishing in Sri
Lanka as early as the 5th century and the Arab travellers are believed
to have introduced the art of making rope using coconut fibre. Marco
Polo in his travels in the orient speaks of the coconut as "The Indian
nut grown in northern Sumatra and along the western coasts and eastern
coasts of Southern India." Robert Knox says: "Here are also Indian
fruits, coconuts." The coconut palm is a unique tree whose majestic
appearance no person can ever forget and its nuts have captured the
respect and regard of the entire humanity.
It is the sacred responsibility of the present generation to preserve
this tree for the next generation.