Oil palm cultivation ban to be scratched


Sri Lanka’s oil palm industry is currently in the prospects of lifting the ban in order to demolish the dependency on imported palm oil, The Daily Morning Business learnt.

Speaking to The Daily Morning Business Coconut Research Institute of Sri Lanka (CRISL) Director Dr. Sanathanie Ranasinghe said: “Sri Lanka produces about 25,000 metric tonnes (MT) of palm oil from about 11,000 to 12,000 hectares from its palm cultivation.”

Although the imposition of the oil palm cultivation ban in 2021 was based on one of the reports given by the Central Environment Authority (CEA), the facts in those reports are still debatable, Dr. Ranasinghe noted.

She pointed out that CRISL had held a meeting last month (December 2023) with the Ministry of Environment. There are ongoing discussions to lift the oil palm cultivation ban soon and the Ministry of Environment is working on it.

At the same time, CRISL has given guidelines for planting oil palm. The planters have to strictly follow those guidelines and they can only plant oil palm within the chosen areas which receive the amount of rainfall indicated by CRISL, and the slope also has been accounted for.

Dr. Ranasinghe added that Sri Lanka needs about 220,000 MT of edible oil per year for consumption as well as for the industry. Yet, the country produces a maximum of 45,000 to 50,000 MT. With the available oil palm cultivation, Sri Lanka produces about 25,000 to 30,000 MT where the balance has to be imported, mainly, from Indonesia.

The Daily Morning Business also contacted Hayleys Group Managing Director and Planters’ Association of Ceylon Spokesman Dr. Roshan Rajadurai who commented, saying: “Giving permission for oil palm cultivation will create internal wealth for the Sri Lankan population. Foreign currency will not flow out of the country. It will create a local industry.”

He stated that the wiser thing to do is for the Government to permit the cultivation of oil palm instead of spending hard-earned foreign currency on importing oil or giving concessions.

The Planters’ Association (PA) and other cultivators have been asking permission for several years to cultivate oil palm in already cultivated areas. No new land will be cleared and no harm will be caused to the environment because these are very favourable crops, Rajadurai explained.

According to the press release of the Presidential Secretariat (5 April 2021), the companies and entities which have done oil palm cultivations is required to remove them on a phased out manner with 10% uprooting at a time, and replacing it with the cultivation of rubber or environmental-friendly crops each year to free Sri Lanka from oil palm plantation and palm oil consumption.

When this ban is fully operational, the Government intends to stop the cultivation of oil palm and the consumption of palm oil completely.