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Assistance for blight hit coconut growers

Plantation Industries Minister Mahinda Samarasinghe said yesterday that coconut growers in the Matara District would be encouraged and assisted to cultivate alternative crops in a bid to offset the loss they suffered due to a government decision to uproot 400,000 coconut palms affected by blight.

He said the blight, phytoplasma, a bacterium like germ, had destroyed over 400,000 coconut palms in the Matara District and they could not be restored to bear nuts.

Those who lost their coconut palms would be encouraged and given all assistance pto cultivate alternative crops like cinnamon, rubber, cashew, tea and fruits like rambuttan, mango, pineapple and banana, Minister Samarasinghe said.

He announced this at a press conference held at the Plantations Ministry Auditorium yesterday.

Samarasinghe said that once a palm had contracted the disease it would prevail in the palm and spread to others.

He pointed out that the main aim of the Ministry was to prevent the blight spreading to the coconut triangle, which was free from the disease.

The Ministry suspects that the disease has spread from India.

Samarasinghe added that the Ministry would promote Crop Diversification Programmes in the affected coconut growing areas because almost all coconut growers had been depending on earnings from their coconut palms. The main duty of the Ministry would be to find income-generating crop diversification cultivation programmes in the blight-hit areas.

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