Commercial cultivation vital to boost kithul industry | Sunday Observer

Commercial cultivation vital to boost kithul industry

27 December, 2020
The kithul industry, a perennial?cottage industry which provides a regular income to a large number of people needs to be promoted at commercial level?to boost the industry. Those depending on the lucrative industry seek State assistance to develop the trade.
The kithul industry, a perennial?cottage industry which provides a regular income to a large number of people needs to be promoted at commercial level?to boost the industry. Those depending on the lucrative industry seek State assistance to develop the trade.

The Government should introduce commercial kithul cultivation to boost the kithul industry, industrialists and farmers said. Appreciating the Government’s initiatives to uplift the kittul industry, they said that without large scale kithul plantations, kithul small holdings and a national program to protect kithul plants and start new cultivations, the industry cannot be developed beyond its present cottage industry level, they said.

The Government set up the State Ministry of Coconut, Kithul and Palmyrah Cultivation Promotion and Related Industrial Product Manufacturing and Export Diversification. This is the first dedicated ministry for the kithul industry and as industrialists who have been producing and marketing kithul products, we highly appreciate the Government intervention, Green Lanka Products chairman, a leading kithul producer Nishantha Kastury said.

Cottage industry

He said that the kithul a cottage industry mainly depends on forest kithul. There is no motivation at any level to start kithul plantations. With the destruction of forest cover, kithul trees have become scare. It is the main setback for the industry at the village level. Limitation of kithul trees is the main obstacle for the industry.

Forest kithul trees are difficult to reach, toller than planted kithul trees growing in open areas, he said. Forest kithul trees are also located long distance from one another. This makes kithul tapping extremely difficult and unattractive work for the tappers. Proper plantation will make kithul tapping convenient and uplift the industry from the cottage level to the small and medium scale. The Government and various NGOs have supported industry considering its potential to alleviate rural poverty, but the issues in the industry have not been addressed, Kasthuri said. “Kithul can be cultivated as an intercropping in large tea plantations and tea smallholdings in the central highlands. As a company engage in this industry, we encourage farmers to cultivate kithhul plants. According to our experience, kithul trees growing in tea plantations mature/ flowering earlier than trees in deep forests. They are shorter than forest kithul trees and due to fertiliser application to tea cultivation, trees are growing fast. However, there is no scientific information related to kithul plants and research on kithul plantation should be a main task that the new ministry should initiate,” he said.

The Industrial Technology Institute has carried research on kithul products and some of the technologies such as kithul activation and sap production enhancing reagent (KASPER), a ready to use treatment mixture for Kithul was promoted by the Government. However, such initiatives alone cannot address the root issues in the industry, the difficult tapping process. Other technologies, such as product quality control, testing, value addition are not available and the Government should support dissemination of these technologies to the grassroots level, he said.

Low production

The main issue in the industry is alteration of kithul trickle with sugar. Higher demand and low production are the cause for this issue. As a result, pure kithul products are rare. Consumers buy low quality sugar mixed products at high price. Kithul is a niche market product. There is a sizable local market. There is no sufficient production to export. Green Lanka Products organise kittul tappers and mobilise them to produce pure kithul trickle. We purchase them at a reasonable higher price and without paying reasonable price to the tappers, we cannot expect quality products or sustainability of the supply, Kasthuri said. K.A Rajapaksa, kithul tapper in Yatiyanthota said that a tapper has to climb a tree two or three times a day. This is further difficult in the wet zone and in the rainy season.

Therefore, availability of kithul trees in easy access is the only solution that can address these natural barriers for the industry. New generation does not enter into the industry due to this difficulty in tapping. However, kithul is a profitable industry and a tapper who can tap around 7-8 trees can earn around Rs.100,000 per month.

It has been scientifically proven that glucose and fructose content in the Kithul syrup is extremely low. The Glycaemic Index or GI of Kithul Syrup is low. It is ranked as a low GI food and therefore, has a higher demand.

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