With the objective to discuss the major project and programs of ICC and to know more about the impacts of the current situation in Sri Lanka to coconut sector and industry and to identify the required facilitation and supports from ICC and other international organizations, Dr. Jelfina C.Alouw, Executive Director and Ms. Mridula Kottekate, Assistant Director , ICC visited Sri Lanka on 6th September 2022.
On arrival at Coconut Research Institute (CRI), ED and AD were warmly welcomed by Mrs. D. S. Wijesekera, Additional Secretary, Ministry of Plantation Industries and representative of Secretary and NLO for ICC from Sri Lanka, Dr. Saranga Alahapperuma, Chairman, CRI and Dr. Lalith Perera, Acting Director. A meeting was arranged in the CRI in which representatives from other partner coconut institutes like Coconut Cultivation Board (CCB) and Coconut Development Authority (CDA) including the senior officers from Ministry of plantation and researchers of CRI participated.
The meeting started with the welcome address by Mrs. D. S. Wijesekera, Additional Secretary, Ministry of Plantation Industries, Sri Lanka. Dr. Jelfina C. Alouw, in her address mentioned the main purpose of the visit and briefed the different concluded ,ongoing and upcoming programs of ICC for the CY 2022. She also informed that ICC always in close contacts with the researchers of CRI and they are actively participating in all the ICC programs. ED Pointed out some of the specific problems faced by all coconut growers after pandemic and some unseen incidents like wars, natural calamity and economic recession. Executive Director invited Chairman, CRI and CCB for the upcoming International Cocotech Conference in November in Malaysia and requested to include the major coconut industry and stakeholders of Sri Lanka to be part of the conference and exhibition wherein ICC arranging the B2B meeting for the stakeholders. This platform will give an opportunity to them for expanding their business and support the country in overcoming national problems through increasing exports of coconut-based products.
Dr. Saranga Alahapperuma, Chairman, CRI mentioned the mutual understanding between CRI and ICC in implementing the ICC programs specially the International Certificate Course for Coconut Development Officers consecutively two years on campus and one year virtually. He mentioned some of the focal points to be considered in improving the coconut production and productivity and the National Coconut Research Policy formulated by the Ministry of plantation, Sri Lanka. Chairman CRI appreciated the work carried out by the researchers of CRI specially in Tissue Culture. He requested ICC to facilitate to identify some machinery manufacturers and capacity building in processing and production of Nata de coco. Recently in Sri Lanka efforts have been made to bring more unutilized coconut land into cultivation for that different programs and projects also launched. Dr. Alahapperumma assured ICC that CRI will continue to host the training program in coming years. Chairman shared that recently CRI has been awarded with the best Citizen’s website Award.
Mr. Keerti Sri Weerasinghe, Chairman, Coconut Development Authority (CDA), in his address requested ICC to encourage the researchers of member countries to come up with more work on health and nutrition aspects of coconut to combat with the negative campaign against coconut oil and other coconut products. He added that now a days MCT oil is getting popular amongst the consumers so need to encourage more producers in this sector.
Dr. Nayanie Aratchige, Deputy Director (Research), CRI presented the R&D programs of CRI. The activities of CDA and CCB were presented by Mr. Sampath Samarawickrama, Director of CDA and Mr. W. M. Rathnayaka, Assistant General Manager, CCB.
There were in depth discussion on different aspects related to marketing; capacity building, and facilitation by ICC to coconut industries of other member countries. Dr. Jelfina assured full support of ICC in linking with the stakeholders and experts and manufacturers for the sustainable development of the coconut industry in Sri Lanka.
The meeting concluded with the vote of thanks proposed by Dr. Lalith Perera, Acting Director, CRI. He stated that CRI having a well-developed digital library which can be linked with ICC for the reference of other coconut experts of the countries.
In the afternoon we visited the processing, soil testing laboratory, agronomy division, breeding, plant protection and tissue culture (TC) laboratory of CRI. We saw the different activities of the units and progress made in the respective divisions. We also visited the multilocational study conducted by CRI with the tissue culture plants developed in the field. It was really appreciable to see the progress made by the TC division.
A meeting with industry representatives was also arranged in Colombo. Mr. Suresh Siva, CEO of Silver Mill and his associates met with ICC team. He shared his experiences in developing the industry in other countries like India and Indonesia and hurdles faced mainly competing in global markets. Silver Mill is one of the biggest industry in Sri Lanka looking after by the third generation holders. ED, ICC invited him to the International Cocotech Conference so that he can be a motivator to other start-up companies.
The visit to Sri Lanka and meeting with the Chairman(s) of coconut institutes and stakeholders were very productive and informative. We are delighted to see a lot of progress in the development of coconut technology and the country’s situation is gradually improving.