COLOMBO: In a desperate move towards tackling the shortage of coconuts and the skyrocketing of its prices, the government has permitted the private sector to import coconut kernels, official sources said.
The Coconut Development Authority (CDA) called on interested importers to import coconut kernels without delay considering it as a national priority as there is a severe dearth of coconuts in the country and its price has gone up to Rs.100 to Rs. 125 per nut, a senior official of the CDA disclosed.
The CDA published a newspaper advertisement on Wednesday, appealing to the private sector to import coconut kernels to safeguard the local industry and for the benefit of consumers.
When contacted for further information, CDA Acting Director (Processing and Development) P. Edirimanne told TimesOnline that the government has revised the quarantine law enabling the importers to import kernels.
He revealed that the coconut yield has dropped drastically due to uncertain weather conditions specially the drought, increased domestic consumption, felling of coconut trees and the low crop being received from the majority of over 50 year old existing trees.
The coconut yield has dropped to 2.5 billion nuts per month at present from 3 billion during the past five years; he said adding that 75 per cent of it, is being used for local consumption and 25 percent for the industry value addition and exports.
However he noted that the CDA has taken measures to replant coconut and implement disease prevention programs as well as new plantations.
‘Wilt ‘disease prevailing in Matara and Galle districts has been successfully contained while preventing the spread of the disease, he said.
Around one million acres of land is under coconut cultivation in the island, he disclosed adding that the demand for coconuts has increased with the supply coming down drastically.
The government is also considering the possibility of importing coconuts from India and Malaysia, but no final decision has been taken towards this end, a senior Finance Ministry official said.
In the past Sri Lanka was not only self –sufficient in coconuts but also exported it other countries, the world over.