Plantation sector hampered by poor admin decisions says Navin

The government has had discussions with the IFFAD, a funding institution, to arrange a US $65 million funding program to support tea smallholders. The funds will be available for re-planting, fertilizer and technical support.

The Plantation Industries Ministry is seeking Treasury support to the tune of Rs. 140 million to cover the loss of income for the adverse weather affected members in the plantation sector in the districts of Galle, Matara, Ratnapura and Kalutara. “We are moving very quickly to give some sort of support to the affected people in the plantation sector,” Minister Dissanayake said.

The lethargy in government administration has hampered the progress of the plantation sector, Minister of Plantation Industries, Navin Dissanayake said.

“Civil servants are not carrying policy decisions. This is the main obstacle to implementing government decisions,” he said.

While emphasizing that he is open to new ideas and new thinking, the Minister said that immediate coconut importation is not on the cards.

“The government will not go for coconut imports right now. However, we will monitor the situation and one container load of coconuts has been imported to enable the Coconut Research Institute (CRI) to check for diseases. We are experimenting through the CRI and this will be only for re-export,” he said.

The coconut industry has to be developed and move forward. There is huge potential and the government has identified it as a thrust industry. We will take a conscious decision once the situation is fully analyzed, he said.

The Minister initiated a program named ‘Wewili Saviya’, where technical and technological assistance for the growers is given. This is a village level program and the beneficiaries get the latest advice on the technology to be use for better productivity. “The program started two months ago and it was a success. It will be launch again in July to support growers,” he said.

The lack of a positive attitude is the main cause for the low productivity. “We are not happy with the entire plantation sector productivity.

“The non use of scientific method is the key contributor in low productivity,” the Minister pointed out. It is difficult to introduce new breeding varieties. It takes time and a lot of effort.

The only way to increase the land area is to go for new ground. This is why we have selected a new coconut triangle in the North and the East. There have been several discussions regarding land allocation as land is a sensitive aspect in this area, the Minister said.

The subsidy programs for tea and coconut are continuing. The tea industry has been allocated Rs 1,500 million while coconut growers will receive Rs 500 million which will be up to June this year.

The government is assessing the cost to the country due to the recent natural disasters. Once the numbers are finalized a Cabinet paper will be presented to allocate funds, he said.

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