The palmyrah sector is an important sector for the livelihood development in the Northern and Eastern Provinces. Although there are 11 million palmyrah tress in the Northern Province, they are not used effectively to realise the full economic potentials. The sap production is very high during February to August. It is also noted that the tapping community is the most poverty-affected group and they are not fully realising the benefits due to the seasonal nature of the production of SAP and the inadequate attention onsap based value added products, said V. Sivagnanasothy, Secretary, Ministry of National Policies, Economic Affairs, Resettlement and Rehabilitation, Northern Province Development and Youth Affairs.
Due to inadequate income from tapping and social stigma, the number of tappers is on decline in the recent past. However, there are over 7,500 members in the Palm Development Co-operative Societies in the Northern Province which can be activated and strengthen.
Therefore, during the recent visit by Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe to the Northern Province, the members of the Palm Development Societies expressed their concerns on the need to support their economic and livelihood activities. In this context, Wickremesinghe directed the Ministry to developpalmyrah-basedjaggery production and other related SAP products which have very high demand in the Island as well as among diaspora and global community.
The jaggery production has medicinal values, nutritional value andorganic values with low Glycemic Index while serving as a sweetener. Therefore, the Ministry of National Policies, Economic Affairs, Resettlement and Rehabilitation, Northern Province Development and Youth Affairs has identified active PalmDevelopmentCo-operativeSocieties and plans to support them with palmyrahjaggery plant and related technology. Further, at the discussions some of the Palm DevelopmentCo-operative Societies also requested for toddy bottling plant to preserve the excess toddy and to cater the market during off-season.Palmyrah toddy is believed to have essential vitamins and minerals and is an organic product with nutritional value.
Further, sap based products such as jiggery, sweet toddy products, sugar candy and toddy bottling are to be supported through new technology under the special budget proposal for which Rs. 100 million has already allocated said Sivagnanasothy.
The Ministry will closely work with the District and Divisional administration, Palm Development Co-operative Societies and Palmyrah Development Board to support the jaggery production, sweet toddy production and toddy bottling requirements by providing necessary technology plant and facilities. This will significantly contribute the development of palmyrah sector, livelihood development of taping community and palmyrahdependent families and the local and export market.
The project support willincludeprovision of modern jaggery plant, sweet toddy bottling facility, toddy bottling plant, sugar candy production facility, and jaggerycentres in the Northern Districts covering Jaffna, Kilinochchi, Mullaitivu and other districts. The project activities have already started.