Coconut price to be maintained at Rs 40-60 – CCB Chairman | Sunday Observer

Coconut price to be maintained at Rs 40-60 – CCB Chairman

The coconut crisis in the country according to industry experts is likely to be solved within the next couple of months, with the yield expected to increase by around 40 million nuts per month with pest control measures and improved weather across the country.

The country needs around 240 million nuts per month for domestic consumption and industry use. The yield is expected to increase up to 280 million nuts in the next two months due to the rain during the past two months.

Industry experts said the drought that prevailed through out the year and even going up to 2016 in the coconut triangle which comprises Puttalam, Chilaw and Kurunegala and in other parts had an adverse impact on the crop yield which dropped drastically during the past two years.

However, there is some sigh of relief for the industry which needs between 2,400 to 2,-600 million nuts per annum to meet the local and industry demand as the crop yield is expected to increase following the favourable weather and the application of chemical treatment to eliminate the destruction to the crop by mite insects.

Coconut Cultivation Board (CCB) Chairman Kapila Yakandawala said with the crop yield increasing by around 40 million nuts per month, from next month the price of a nut will come down to around Rs. 65. The grower could get a minimum price of Rs. 45 while the consumer could purchase a nut at around Rs. 65.

Currently the price of a coconut in the market ranges between Rs. 90-100 which is almost a 50 percent increase from the price that stood a few moons ago. However there is speculation that the price per nut will rise up to Rs. 130 due to the acute shortage of nuts. The size of a nut also has reduced with a low kernel which growers said is due to the mite attacks.

“We need to control the price fluctuation which is not good for the industry. We hope to maintain the price range between Rs. 40-60 per nut,” Yakandawala said.

He said the country was unable to meet its needs this year due to the nine-month drought that resulted in a 30 percent drop in yield. The 100 percent profit margin kept by middlemen is the other reason for prices to soar.

When the farm gate price per nut is Rs. 20 the price in the market is Rs. 40. Currently farmers get around Rs. 55 per nut.

“We have launched a program to strengthen farmers providing financial and infrastructure facilities. We hope to have direct sales and forwarding agreements with around 2,000 farmer organizations,” the CCB Chairman said.

However, growers and mill operators said export of nuts in all its substances is a main cause for the shortfall of nuts in the country, besides the adverse weather and pest attacks.

Refuting the allegation, Coconut Development Board Chairman Udaya Rupasinghe said exporting nuts is not a problem for the industry as the country needs only around 1,450 million nuts per annum for local consumption. When the annual yield is around 3,400 million nuts, there is an adequate amount of nuts for export which brings in revenue to the country and the industry.

Exports, according to Rupasinghe was around 800 million nuts last year which recorded a yield of around 3,057 million nuts.

“We are targeting US$ 1 billion revenue from exports of coconut and coconut-based products by 2020,” Rupasinghe said.

The export revenue during the first nine months this year was Rs. 69, 684. The coconut industry comprises around 700,000 growers who are spread across 1.1 million acres in the country. The industry produces around 36 kernel-based products in addition to husk, water and shell based products for the local and export markets.

Sri Lanka exports coconut products to USA, Europe, Japan, Australia and the Middle East.

The immediate or short-term solution worked out by the CCB for the industry is to double the current crop yield from around 65 to around 120 nuts per tree.

“We will encourage growers to water and fertilise trees which is not being practiced. In the long term, we have launched a mega cultivation program in the North, East, South and in the wet zone to boost production by increasing the extent of cultivation across the country with an annual target of around 50,000 acres,” Yakandawala said.

A coconut tree requires 27 litres of water a day. However, this is not a feasible task according to growers who say they are unable to water palms during the dry season when wells run dry and water is inadequate for household needs.

Besides, the drought and mite attacks, growers are also battered by other pests such as monkeys, rock squirrels, wild boar and porcupines who ravage the crop from the palm to the adult tree. According to estimates, over 200,000 coconut trees were destroyed due to the Weligama Wilt and around 150,000 palms in the Matara district were affected by the disease.

The Coconut Research Institute (CRI), following extensive research, introduced a biological control method of releasing laboratory-bred predatory mites in the field to minimise the damage caused by the coconut mite.

CRI Director Dr. L C P Fernando said the CRI has recommended two mite control measures such as the use of palm oil and sulphur mixed in soap water and sprayed from knapsacks and the biological-control method which uses a natural enemy to destroy the mite.

Growers could get predator mites from the CRI head-office in Lunuwila or Coconut Cultivation Board breeding centres in the country.