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Sunday, 19 June 2011

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SUNDAY OBSERVER Extra

Salvage coir industry, urge manufacturers


The traditional coir industry is the livelihood of over 3,000 families in Sri Lanka's Southern coastal belt. According to coir industrialists who have been living in the area for the past few decades, the industry has a long history of over 100 years. Even some of our forefathers would have been engaged in the industry.

The Sunday Observer visited some homes from Wadduwa to Amabalangoda in the Southern coastal belt to look into the development activities of the coir industry.

During our brief stay we got an opportunity to listen to the grievances of coir manufacturers.

An 82-year-old coir product manufacturer, Keerthisena Yapa of Pohoddaramulla, Kalutara said he started making brooms and carpets at the age of 13. He said his father David Appuhamy who was a well-known carpet manufacturer in the area taught him the art of making coir products.

"My family and I depend on this industry and we make various products such as brooms, carpets, wall hangings and brushes. We sell them at the village fair,".

"In addition, we take them from house to house and sell. I also urge local authorities in our area to help coir products manufacturers financially to expand the industry,".

Since there is a significant drop in sales, some manufacturers do not get a proper monthly income. Many of them are still living in wattle and daub houses.

Fifty one-year-old Edward Ranjith of Kalutara said he started making coir products at the age of 12.

"I learned th e art of making carpets and brooms from my late father Ebert. I have been in the industry for the past 35 years, but unlike in the past we now earn only for our daily expenses,".

Problems of producers

Ranjith appeals to officials of the Ministry of Small Industries to visit the area and look into the needs of coir goods manufacturers. He said raw coir is supplied from Kuliyapitiya, Wennappuwa, Kurunegala and Matara areas.


Coir products

"A kilo of processed coir is Rs. 72 and about three brooms could be made from a kilo of coir,".Kumarasiri Perera of Pohoddaramulla said even during the last elections, politicians from various parties made numerous promises to develop the coir industry.

`They said they would grant even loans from rural and co-operative banks to build houses as well as to develop the coir industry.'

"But, these politicians never returned to help us," He therefore urged Members of Parliament who represent these villages to visit them and discuss their problems.Seventy-two-year old Mary Agnes of Kandewatta, Pothupitiya said she started manufacturing coir products 55 years ago.

"Unlike in the past, it is very difficult to earn money from coir goods. I am sure the coir industry will die a natural death very soon due to the use of synthetic goods by people,".

She therefore requested the Government to control the import of syntheti products, since it has affected the coir industry as well as the environment.

A 48-year-old shop owner Keerthisena Perera said he has been in the coir business for the past 12 years and earns about Rs. 20,000 a month.

In addition to coir products, Perera sells ekel brooms, hats made of reed and also cane furniture.

He said tourists visit his shop often to buy hats and wall hangings.

A coir rope manufacturer, 53-year-old Osmand Silva of Kuda Waskaduwa said he takes his products to Colombo, Jaffna and Kandy and earns a sufficient amount every month.

State support

He said without the Government support, it is difficult to develop the industry.

"I also urge the relevant Ministry officials to hold coir product exhibitions in main cities to promote our products,". Fifty-five-year old Walter Silva of Koboduwa said it was pathetic to say that not a single official of the Divisional Secretariat in his area or a Provincial Councillor takes interest to solve the burning issues of coir goods manufacturers.

"I think we should form an association and direct our problems to relevant officials in order to get benefits," A coir goods shop owner, Gamunu Weerasinghe urged officials of the Sri Lanka Tourism to use at least 75 percent coir related products in tourist hotels, to support coir goods manufacturers in the country.

A shop owner S. Jayatillaka commended President Mahinda Rajapaksa's efforts to develop traditional industries and said that the President should call coir goods manufacturers and discuss matters pertaining to them.

A coir goods supplier Siripala Ginige proposed the Railway Department to encourage people in the South to transport coir products to the North by trains. Coir goods manufacturer, Dayalal Fernando of Wadduwa requested Government Departments, hospitals, schools and other Local Government offices to use 80 percent coir related goods as it will help over 3,000 coir industrialists.

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