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Asian Palm Oil Association expresses concern on palm oil ban

By: Staff Writer

Colombo (LNW): The Asian Palm Oil Association (APOA), a multilateral body representing the industry across India, Bangladesh, Nepal, Sri Lanka, and Pakistan, has urged the President to lift the ban on Palm oil cultivation and production in Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka’s recent ill-advised policy decision of ousted former President Gotabaya Rajapaksa to either temporarily ban or restrict palm oil cultivation has attracted significant attention both domestically and internationally.

The concerns on this matter were raised formally by the APOA with President Ranil Wickremesinghe while urging him to lift the ban recently.

The association has out lined missed benefits of this golden crop, and explore the overwhelming positives for cultivating oil palms in Sri Lanka, which include economic benefits, potential for improving food security, and support for sustainable development goals.

One of the primary reasons to support the cultivation of oil palms in Sri Lanka is the acute shortage of cooking oil in the country.

Global disruptions caused by the COVID-19 crisis and the Russia-Ukraine war have severely affected vegetable oil supply chains.

As a major consumer of cooking oil, Sri Lanka could address this shortage by fostering a strategic commodity like palm oil, thus reducing its dependence on imports.

Palm oil is a crucial component in numerous consumer products, from toothpaste and shampoo to confectionery and bakery goods. Thus, through oil palm cultivation,

Sri Lanka can strengthen its domestic production capabilities and reduce its reliance on imports. At present, local consumption stands at 264,000 metric tons, with only 20% produced domestically. On the other hand, expanding coconut oil production, the primary alternative is neither economically viable nor technically feasible.

Globally, smallholders are emerging as leading producers of oil palm. However, Sri Lanka’s palm oil sector currently lacks substantial smallholder participation.

The country has over 2,000 smallholders interested in starting oil palm cultivation, presenting a significant opportunity for economic empowerment.

The experience of India’s National Mission on Edible Oil–Oil Palm (NMEO-OP) under Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s leadership, serves as a successful model for self-reliance in terms of edible oils. Sri Lanka can, therefore, benefit greatly from collaboration with India and other countries to promote sustainable palm oil production.

The expansion of oil palm cultivation can contribute to achieving Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in Sri Lanka. Studies from Indonesia and Malaysia demonstrate that oil palm cultivation enhances income gains and capital accumulation while improving living standards for smallholder farmers.

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