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Like onions in India, coconut disappears from Lankan curries

world Updated: Dec 22, 2010 22:56 IST
Sutirtho Patranobis
Sutirtho Patranobis
Hindustan Times

If onion prices are stinging in India, in Sri Lanka the government has been forced to take hard measures to control the spiraling price of coconut, considered a dietary staple on the island.

The government has now decided to import coconuts from India and Malaysia to end the shortages and bring down prices.

With Christmas later in the week, the festive spirit of citizens has taken a hit because of the shortage.

Earlier this week, the Government banned the felling of coconut trees without permission from the Coconut Cultivation board with immediate effect.

Coconut Development and Janatha Estate Development Minister Jagath Pushpakumara said the decision was taken to protect coconut cultivation and thereby keep a check on the price.

Agencies reported that in an effort to curb a coconut black market, the Sri Lankan government last week set a ceiling retail price of 30 rupees (27 US cents) per coconut in state-owned stores. But stocks quickly sold out and then reappeared at more than double the price on the black market.

Sri Lanka’s annual coconut production is 2.7 billion nuts, and the ministry expects to increase this to 3.5 billion, Pushpakumara said.

Coconuts have traditionally been a key Sri Lankan export, after tea and rubber. But many say that the main reason for the coconut shortage is that large chunks of coconut plantations have been sold to build housing projects.

The fruit is widely used to make curries and the island specialty of `sambol’, a type of dry chutney.

Sri Lanka's Central Bank said coconut production fell 4.4 percent in the third quarter of this year after falling 19.3 percent in the corresponding period last year.

Not only coconut, the Lankan government has also decided to import chicken and eggs to meet the demands of the festive season.

Reports also said that Sri Lanka soon plans to start importing camels and ostrich to meet the demand for rising milk and egg consumption.