Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Sri Lanka lifts ban on tea estates harvesting timber

n 31, 2012 (LBO) - A Sri Lanka state decision to allow commercial timber to be harvested will increase the supply of fuel wood for use in tea driers helping cut production costs, an industry body representing private managers said.

"We are confident this decision by the government will benefit not only the estate sector but the country as a whole, Lalith Obeyesekere, chairman of the Planters Association, which represents private managers said in a statement.

Plantations industries minister Mahinda Samarasinghe had intervened to lift the ban he said.

Sri Lanka's so-called regional plantation companies (RPCs) formerly state-run tea and rubber plantation now leased to the private firms, come under various state restrictions.

The plantations, originally grown by mainly British farmers, were expropriated in the 1970s and driven to losses by the state two decades later.

In 1990s most were given back to private firms after the taxes collected from the people had to be pumped into the firms to meet their salary bills every month.

Under private management many firms converted tea dryers which earlier ran on furnace oil to run to fuelwood, when commodity prices rose as loose US monetary policy pushed up commodity prices from 2001.

"The use of fuel wood is expected to reduce both RPC operating costs and also the country’s oil import bill, at a time when oil prices are rising," the Planters Association, a body representing private managers said.

"Timber harvesting will also provide RPCs with an alternate source of income. This is seen as particularly important as many RPCs are facing financial difficulties due to volatile tea prices and increasing production costs."

But greater use of fuelwood also drove up their prices.

The PA said plantation companies forestry programs are approved by Sri Lanka's Conservator of Forests and prior to harvesting timber tracts are inspected by the Forest Department, Central Environmental Authority and the plantations ministry.

The planters said timber harvested from their plantations was also used for construction and furniture production.

source - www.lbo.lk

No comments: