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Tuesday May 30th, 2023

Sri Lanka coconut exporters see silver line after US rights body criticizes Thailand’s monkey labour

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ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka’s coconut milk exporters see a rare opportunity in expanding their sales in foreign markets after an American animal rights group has urged coconut buyers to stop importing coconut milk from Thailand due to monkey labour practice.

Thailand is the third largest coconut exporter in the World after Indonesia and the Philippines, international trade data show.

Sri Lanka is the fourth-largest exporter of fresh and dried coconut products, including desiccated coconut, brown fiber, virgin coconut oil, and coconut water.

“Any situation can be an opportunity if it’s properly identified; the negative publicity surrounding coconut products from Thailand can be advantageous for Sri Lankan coconut exporters to distinguish themselves as an ethical, eco-friendly, and sustainable source of coconut products in the international market,” Gehan de Alwis, Director of Ceylon Coconut Company told Economy Next.

“The recent news articles surrounding coconut products from Thailand will create an opportunity for Sri Lankan coconut products to gain a foothold in the price-sensitive US market with our superior quality and ethically sourced coconut products.”

According to the statistics of Sri Lanka Coconut Development Authority, export of coconut milk had a value of 29,012.96 million rupees in 2022.

In 2022, the total export value of coconut-based products was 817 million US dollars.

The comments from local coconut exporters came nearly a week after Laura Shields, the Director of People for Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), a US-based animal rights organization, urged international buyers to stop purchasing coconut from Thailand, as the country still uses pigtailed macaque monkeys to pick coconuts.

The practice of using pigtailed macaque monkeys to pick coconuts in Thailand dates back around 400 years, and many animal rights organizations have tried to force the country to stop the practice over the years.

“Now the push is to just stop sourcing from Thailand entirely and source from other places that produce coconut milk without the use of monkeys, like the Dominican Republic, India, Sri Lanka, Vietnam, the Philippines,” Shields was quoted in an interview with the US-based online news platform Axios.

According to export data provided by the Office of Agricultural Affairs at the Royal Thai Embassy in Washington, DC, Thailand has around 80 percent of the market share for coconut milk in the US and exported nearly 78,000 tons in 2020. (Colombo/March13/2023)

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  1. Lal. Fernando. says:

    I cannot see any problem with this issue. If the monkeys are happy doing this job so what is the issue? After all, after viewing the picture, the monkey seems to be happily plucking the coconuts.

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  1. Lal. Fernando. says:

    I cannot see any problem with this issue. If the monkeys are happy doing this job so what is the issue? After all, after viewing the picture, the monkey seems to be happily plucking the coconuts.

Sri Lanka food producers on countdown; 6-months to reduce trans fat content

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lankan food manufacturers only have another six months to reduce the amount of trans fat in food items as the government plans to ban high trans-fat food from January 2024 onwards, an official said.

“A six-month grace period has been given to existing manufacturers, sellers and distributors whose products contain trans-fat,” an official of the Ministry of Health told EconomyNext requesting anonymity.

According to a Ministry of Health gazette issued on… a person shall not sell, offer for sale, expose or keep for sale or advertise for sale, any packaged food product containing trans-fat unless the total amount of trans-fat of such food product per 100 grams or 100 milliliters of the food product is declared on the label of such packaged food product.

However, these regulations will not be applicable for export oriented food products.

Trans-fat is a type of fat that has certain chemical properties and is usually found in processed foods such as baked goods, snack foods, fried foods, shortening, margarine, and certain vegetable oils.

Eating trans-fat increases blood cholesterol levels and the risk of heart disease.

Meanwhile, the World Health Organization (WHO) has praised Sri Lanka for enacting a legislation on trans-fat to protect health and prevent premature deaths from coronary heart disease, a statement from the WHO said.

“Eliminating trans-fats from food supplies is a cost-effective measure with enormous health benefits,” the statement quoting Poonam Khetrapal Singh, Regional Director, WHO South-East Asia said.

“By enacting legislation on trans-fat, Sri Lanka has once again demonstrated its resolve to protect and promote the health of its people”.

The regulations are coming into effect as Sri Lanka is struggling with food insecurity as the country recovers from its worst economic crisis.

However, an improvement in food security across all provinces has been recorded, according to an assessment by a Crop and Food Security Assessment Mission (CFSAM) of two UN agencies. (Colombo/ May 30/2023)

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India extends under utilized $1 bln credit facility to Sri Lanka by one year 

ECONOMYNEXT – India has extended a $1 billion credit facility to Sri Lanka by another year after the loan that was given to help the crisis-hit island nation to continue import of essentials was not fully utilized in the 12 month period originally agreed, officials said.

Sri Lanka faced with a looming sovereign default signed the credit facility in March 2022 for one year through March 2024. However, the full $1 billion had not been utilized yet.

The Facility has been used for urgent procurement of fuel, medicines, food items and industrial raw materials, as per the requirements and priorities of Sri Lanka.

“The initial agreement was signed in 2022 March and out of the 1000 million US dollars allocated materials were imported for $576.75 mil,” Shehan Semasinghe, State Finance Minister said in his official twitter platform.

“The agreement is extended for the remaining $423.25 mil. We will prioritize the import of essential medicines till March 2024.”

Indian High Commission in Colombo said the State Bank of India (SBI) has extended the tenure of the $1 billion Credit Facility provided to Sri Lanka in response to a request from the Government of Sri Lanka.  (Colombo/May 30/2023)

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Sri Lanka President cleared to discuss cancelled LRT after soured Japan relations

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka’s Cabinet of Ministers approved a proposal by President Ranil Wickremesinghe discuss resuming a Japan funded. Light Rail Transit (LRT) project cabinet spokesman said, as the island nation is in the process of mending ties with Tokyo.

However, any such deals are likely to take place after the debt restructuring and Sri Lanka starts to repay its foreign loans to come out of default, analysts say.

Former President Gotabaya Rajapaksa unilaterally cancelled the 1.5 billion US dollar LRT and East Container Terminal (ECT) projects in 2021. Japan agreed to fund the LRT project while it was one of the tripartite members of the ECT project along with India and Sri Lanka.

The abrupt cancellation hit the diplomatic ties between the two countries and Sri Lankan government officials have said Japan had given the project to Sri Lanka at a very lower financing cost.

President Wickremesinghe returned from Japan late last week after having met top officials of the Japanese government including its prime minister.

“In recent history, due to the stopping of several agreements and proposals suddenly, President Wickremesinghe went to Japan after creating the background to clear some of the worries we have,” Cabinet Spokesman Bandula Gunawardena told the weekly media briefing.

“Before he went, he got the approval from the cabinet to resume the discussion on the light railway project. He got the approval from the cabinet to get parliament approval for bilateral agreements signed or any other investments project. Any change or cancellation of a project could be done only with the approval of the parliament.”

Japan has backed Sri Lanka under Wickremesinghe’s presidency after the island nation declared sovereign debt default. (Colombo/May 30/2023)

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