ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka’s palm oil plantations stand to lose 500 million rupees worth of fully grown plants in nurseries as the government dithers on approving new plantings the industry badly needs to expand production, an official said.
“The regional plantation companies, many of whom are present here have 550,000 plants to the value of over 500 hundred million rupees rotting in their nurseries,” Rohan Fernando, president of the Palm Oil Industry President told its annual meeting.
“ . . . before long, they’ll be useless to be planted.”
Fernando blamed the government’s Central Environmental Authority for publishing an incomplete study of apparent dangers of oil palm that was seized upon by opponents to block new plantings.
“An unfortunate report from the Central Environmental Authority, which was absolutely one sided, which was absolutely baseless, which had caused all the damage today and has created untold setbacks to the palm oil industry,” said Fernando.
He said the report was one-sided because not all the member of the committee that prepared it had signed the report.
“I’m calling this an unfair report because there was a committee who dealt with this subject, but not all of the members of the committee signed the report.”
A draft study by the CEA, on which much of the opposition is based, was not signed by four of seven members of the panel which prepared it and contained several wrong conclusions, according to Asoka Nugawela, a professor in the Faculty of Agriculture and Plantation Management at the University of Wayamba.
Fernando said a solution was needed without further delay to prevent the private sector from losing their investments which also could generate employment.
The government had approved planting palm oil in 20,000 hectares of land but it was abruptly stopped.
Only 11,000 hectares had been planted due to agitation by environmentalists and opposition from local government bodies.
President Maithripala Sirisena, under whom comes the CEA, is yet to give an appointment to plantation industry officials trying to put forth scientific evidence oil palm cultivation is not as harmful as widely believed.
“We’ve got the person I believe can give us a remedy for this. Unfortunately, our efforts have been not successful, but we are still hopeful that the President will grant us an appointment to share our views together with whoever the officials are,” said Fernando.
“They should give us a proper hearing and a tangible solution as soon as possible, so that we can proceed, and then, if at all, review this situation about palm oil with scientists that are knowledgeable on this subject.”
Oil palm has been grown in the island for 50 years and was only recently being expanded.
The international back lash against the palm oil industry was mainly due to the countries cutting down virgin forests.
(COLOMBO, 27 August 2019)