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Sri Lanka will halt oil palm cultivation, grow more coconut: President

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka will halt the cultivation of oil palm in the country, while giving assistance to growth coconut in new areas, President Gotabaya Rajapaksa said in addressing the island’s newly elected parliament.

“Plantation of palm oil trees will be stopped completely,” he said.

Sri Lanka’s publicly traded commercial plantations companies have moved into palm oil after the island’s politically connected coconut land owners pushed the ruling class to raise import duties on vegetable oil in a bid to charge higher prices from consumers.

The high import duties on vegetables made palm oil and attractive crop, where prices were higher than the world prices.

The government at the time charged and export tax on rubber, pushing prices below the world market levels, making the crop even less attractive.

Some localized environmental groups have also opposed palm oil making various claims.

Plantation firms have been lobbying to allow them to expand cultivation saying the criticism had no scientific basis and the crop had been in Sri Lanka for half a century with no criticism up to now.

Meanwhile President Rajapaksa said support will be given to grow coconut in new lands.

Sri Lanka’s coconut plantations expanded under British rule particularly in the North Western province.

Students of history say nationalists at the time slammed coconut growing is former paddy lands.

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However the North Western province has seen rapid urban development, making former coconut land valuable for other activities.

Sri Lanka has several laws which block land from being put to more productive use. (Colombo/Aug20/2020)