SL plantation sector to diversify its product offerings to the world
While tea and rubber have put Sri Lanka on the map, it is an opportune time for Sri Lanka’s plantation sector to diversify its product offerings to the world. Planters’ Association of Ceylon Chairman, Senaka Alawattegama emphasized.
It is absolutely critical for Sri Lanka to harness its resources and assets in the most optimum level possible, however to do this Regional Plantation Corporations RPCs need to be given a free hand to determine its own land use policies should it be beneficial for the economy.
In instances where the land has become unsuitable for crops like tea or rubber, plantations should be looking to instead produce other valuable crops like coffee and spices which most of the RPCs have been successful in doing so.
Companies are already experimenting with crops like avocado and berries which have yielded successful results, and valuable new export opportunities.
In that regard, another crop with strong export earning potential is Oil Palm. We cannot overlook the economic benefits this golden crop could offer Sri Lanka, especially at a time when the country requires dollars to purchase essentials like fuel, medicines and gas, Senaka Alawattegama disclosed.
At present Sri Lanka produces approximately 25,000 MT, where Sri Lanka imports 200,000 MT of palm oil for domestic usage. The value of those imports is now over Rs. 24Bn.
Like the 100% organic strategy before it, the campaign against oil palm cultivation has long been proven to be completely lacking scientific facts, and PA has since the beginning provided evidence as to how this crop can be grown in an ethical and sustainable manner without causing harm to the environment, he added.
Today the Sri Lankan tea industry has set a target of US$ 1.5 billion in precious export revenue.
Coincidentally, Sri Lanka’s export earnings from tea at that time stood at approximately US$ 1.5 billion, meaning that the current target is simply to do as well as we did in 2017, he claimed.
However, despite having regained the same favourable prices that the plantation sector enjoyed in 2017, in 2022, the island nation was only able to produce approximately 250 million kg of tea, where in 2017, it had produced 307 million kgs.
The result is that we only generated just under US$ 1.1 billion in tea exports last year, as compared with US$ 1.5 billion in 2017. The shortfall was worth approximately US$ 466 million – funds that could have been utilized for the purchase of fuel, gas, and medicines and other essential items.