Task force to protect industrialists vital- COCOPEC President | Sunday Observer
SME coconut-based industries in dire straits

Task force to protect industrialists vital- COCOPEC President

4 April, 2021

Calling on the authorities to protect the small and medium sector coconut based industries which are in dire straits due to foreign factory operators of coconut-based products, the Consortium of Coconut Based Producers and Exporters of Ceylon (COCOPEC) called upon the policy makers to set up a vibrant force to ensure the sustenance of SMEs of the industry.

COCOPEC President Upali Weerakoon said what is distressing is foreigners who initially patronised Sri Lanka as customers of the coconut value-based industry have now set up factories and generated volumes of foreign exchange to their countries at the expense of the small and medium sector local industrialists. “It is in the midst of this unfavourable environment; a dire necessity has arisen to safeguard the coconut based It is the firm opinion of the local industrialists and stakeholders that forming a  vibrant force is sine qua non to protect the local value-added coconut industry,” Weerakoon said, adding that it has now come to a situation where the problems and threats encountered by industrialists are insurmountable unless we raise a collective voice for the sustainability and survival of our industries.

Outlining the plight of the sector during a COCOPEC meeting in Kurunegala recently Weerakoon said, COCOPEC would become a common platform for the voiceless local entrepreneurs and it is his mission to establish a formidable mission for its members irrespective of their scale of operations whether big or small. Weerakoon said the sustainability of the value-added coconut-based products hinges on the purity of its product as it is free from bacteria and associated harmful chemicals. “The coconut value added industry hasn’t shown substantial improvement for the past few decades. To add insult to injury, the current situation is that there are three distinct government agencies, rather ministries whose course of interaction do not support each other in general and the local coconut value-added industry in particular,” Weerakoon said.

He also noted that coconut plantations which were originally confined to the maritime provinces have now spread all over the island. It has now become a robust industry while generating an income to a large number  of cultivators.

The value of coconut export continuously increased from 2009 to 2017, and export value stagnated at 590 million US dollars in 2017 and 2018. Finally, it decreased to 424 million US dollars in 2019. Successive governments made pledges to develop the indigenous manufacturing industries by adding value-added innovative products supported by local raw materials and labour and also equally backed by research and development, but failed to show  improvement.

“The sad episode of this syndrome is that our politicians as well as the bureaucracy, who play a pivotal role in the decision-making process have failed to live up to the expectation of the local industrialists. Not literally, but in a manner of speaking, this inconsistency has seriously hampered the well-being of the local coconut value-added entrepreneurs.

It is utmost important in this equation that we should essentially have knowledgeable persons at policy making level who are well - versed in the complexities in the local coconut value-added industry and foreign markets,” Weerakoon said.