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Sunday August 14th, 2022

Sri Lanka needs scientific evidence on palm oil controversy: Minister

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka has to examine a growing controversy on oil palm cultivation using science and evidence based research and not be driven by emotion Plantations Minister Navin Dissanayake said.

There is growing opposition to palm oil cultivation in some districts with non-governmental organizations and political parties getting involved in protests, claiming that the environment was being harmed by oil palm.

He had recently attended meeting of stakeholders in the Kegalle district along with officials of the environment agency.

Minister Dissanayake said some protestors were being driven by political objectives but there were also others who were genuinely concerned. Others emotional without relying on scientific evidence.

"So much of the criticism is unscientific and emotional," Minister Dissanayake said. "Singhalese and Tamil people tend to emotional."

Officials said even earth slips are being blamed on oil palm by critics.

However oil palm had been cultivated since the 1960s in Sri Lanka but the opposition had been whipped up in recently, officials said.

Disssanayake said more research had to be conducted to determine the impact if any on palm oil on the environment.

The Coconut Research Institute was looking into the matter but it was not really its job, he said.

At the moment he wanted take a step back until evidence was unearthed and guidelines could be devised for palm cultivation because ground conditions were ‘adverse’.

Minister Dissanayake said the a policy decision adopted by the Rajapaska administration to permit 20,000 hectares of palm oil in the Kegalle district will be continued under the current administration.

He personally did not believe that oil palm could be a substitute for rubber but it could be used to supplement incomes of plantations, he said.

He said replacing 30-year old rubber plantations with oil palm was different from uprooting young rubber plantations with oil palm.

At the moment rubber prices had eased. Rubber prices moved up and down with global commodity prices.

"But prices will move up again," he said. "There is a future for natural rubber in the long term."

In Sri Lanka palm oil has high price because the government raised import duty on vegetable oils to ‘protect’ coconut land owners.

The artificially high prices for palm oil was then prompted companies and others to plant palm oil in a typical unintended consequence that state interventions usually have.

The current administration has however reduced the tax on palm oil somewhat, taking away some of the artificial incentive to grow palm oil at the expense of a competitive export crop like rubber.

Sri Lanka also has export taxes on rubber. (Colombo/June01/2018)

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Sri Lanka jet fuel shortages costing SriLankan Airlines US$7mmn a month

ECONOMYNEXT – A shortage of jet fuel in the country due to forex shortages is costing the state-run SriLankan Airlines an extra 7 million US dollars a month, though the airline is operating most of its schedule, an official said.

“Now we are running 90 percent of our flights even though there is no fuel in the country which is costing us about 7 million US dollars per month in extra and lost revenue,” Richard Nuttall, the Chief Commercial Officer of SriLanka Airlines told Economy Next at the sidelines of a media brief.

“To carry the extra fuel, we can’t carry all the freight we like to into the country.”

SriLankan Airlines was stopping at third countries like India to load up on fuel for long haul destinations.

Carrying fuel for the return journey, a tactic known as tinkering, forces an airline to cut down freight

The hit from fuel came after the airline SriLankan reported a profit of 1.7 million US dollars in the March 2022 quarter for the first time since 2006, after cutting costs such as staff costs and overheads; renegotiating supplier contracts and increasing cargo revenue.

Nuttall said few months ago they were not sure of even operating 30-40 percent of the flights due to lack of sufficient jet fuel in the country.

The state-run Ceylon Petroleum Corporation could not import enough jet fuel due to forex shortages coming from a broken soft-peg. Sri Lanka is currently undergoing the worst currency crises in the history of the island’s intermediate regime central bank.

The Ministry of Energy has said it had appointed a third party to import jet fuel.

“Its not sustainable but we have maintained operations,” Nuttall said. “We understand we will be getting jet fuel very soon.”

The currency collapse had reduced the spending power of holiday makers in Sri Lanka while tourists were also put off by fuel shortages and popular protests.

“While the tourist numbers are not that great there’s demand from Sri Lanka diaspora, Indians,” Nuttall said.

He says being a small airline has allowed them to be nimble and shift capacity.

“If we are getting more demand from one destination, we will put more flights there.”

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Sri Lanka coconut auction prices continue to climb

ECONOMYNEXT- Sri Lanka’s average coconut prices grew 3.7 percent to 64,618.23 rupees for 1,000 nuts at the last auction held on Friday August 12, official data showed.

The highest price was 62,900 rupees for 1,000 nuts, while the lowest was 57,000 rupees at the auction conducted by Sri Lanka’s Coconut Development Authority.

Buyers offered 1,019,395 nuts at the auction and sold 576,906.

Exports of coconut-based products have risen by 12 percent in January to June to 434.48 million dollars from a year earlier, data show. (Colombo/Aug13/2022)

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Chinese tracking vessel cleared to dock at Sri Lanka’s Hambantota Port

Hambantota Port

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs has given the green light to Chinese tracking vessel Yuang Wang 5 to dock at the Chinese-built Hambantota Port from August 16 to 22.

Sri Lankan authorities had first given clearance to the Chinese vessel on July 12, to make a port call at the Hambantota Port from August 11 to 17​ for replenishment purposes.

However, following a diplomatic standoff after concern about the tracking vessel’s anticipated arrival were reportedly raised by the US and India, Sri Lanka’s foreign ministry requested China to defer the port call until “further consultations”.

A report by Sri Lanka’s privately owned Times Online news website said Saturday August 13 morning that the foreign ministry has authorised the docking of the ship.


Sri Lanka permits entry to controversial Chinese tracking vessel Yuang Wang 5

The ministry’s official statement released Saturday evening confirmed that the ship has been given clearance to dock at the Hambantota Port for the new dates August 16 to 22.

“The Ministry wishes to reiterate Sri Lanka’s policy of cooperation and friendship with all countries. Security and cooperation in the neighbourhood is of utmost priority. It is Sri Lanka’s intention to safeguard the legitimate interests of all countries, in keeping with its international obligations. The Ministry is deeply appreciative of the support, solidarity and understanding of all countries, especially in the current juncture when the country is in the process of addressing severe economic challenges and engaging in multiple domestic processes to ensure the welfare of the Sri Lankan people,” the ministry said, without naming the stakeholder countries. (Colombo/Aug13/2022)

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