Wednesday, 08 April 2020 09:09

Coconut auction goes online tomorrow

Online platform to unite auctioneer, brokers and suppliers
Export demand unchanged so far but marginal price drop locally
Restrictions loosened to support sector


Sri Lanka’s coconut auction will take place via a video conference for the first time this week, connecting the auctioneer, brokers, and suppliers on one platform, officials said yesterday, with the sector following in the footsteps of the successful tea e-auction.

The online auction will be held as usual at 10 a.m. on Thursday, following the same mechanism in place for manual auctions.

According to the Coconut Development Authority, the coconut auction, which has been taking place for over 30 years, is held at 10 a.m. every Thursday in Colombo. However, the auctioning process was disrupted during to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic in Sri Lanka.

“We had suspended the auctions for two weeks,” Coconut Development Authority Marketing Development and Research Director Sampath Samarawickrama told Daily FT.

Samarawickrama explained that some plantations could make direct sales but most had to sell their yield through auctions. The suspension of coconut auctions due to the current situation in the country would affect such plantations and the e-auctions were organised and established to continue the auctions even during the current conditions.

The two weeks during which the auctions were suspended did not badly affect the industry, Samarawickrama said, explaining that coconuts were not plucked in most plantations during this time and yield was low.

However, the Government introduced a number of measures to ensure the continuance of the coconut industry on 4 April, including allowing planting, transportation of planting material, plucking, husking, transport for labourers, auctions, transport to warehouses, and export activities during these times.

Similar measures were introduced for tea and rubber, as well as cashew, sugarcane, and export agricultural crops like cinnamon, nutmeg, and coffee. The operations of these industries will continue under the recommendations of relevant bodies and the Plantation Industries and Export Agriculture Ministry, Presidential Task Force, Sri Lanka Police and the Health and Indigenous Medical Services Ministry.

The activities of the coconut industry will thus take place as per the recommendations of the Coconut Development Authority and Samarawickrama said the measures introduced by the Government were welcome as those in the industry faced various restrictions, especially regarding plucking coconuts and transportation. However, these were looked at on a case-by-case basis and decisions were taken to ensure there were no supply chain disruptions.

No issues or setbacks had been reported since the measures were introduced, Samarawickrama said, and added that exports were continuing as usual.

“They have been permitted to carry on operations and coordinate with Sri Lanka Customs and the National Plant Quarantine Service,” he said, adding that exports were continuing as usual and shipments with pending documents or e-copies had also been sent.

No drop in demand in the global market has been recorded yet either and Samarawickrama said they had been supplying for previous orders.

“After the COVID-19 pandemic was controlled in China, there was a large number of orders from the country and exporters have informed us that while they were recovering from the COVID-19 pandemic, China had placed orders with them,” he added.

As for pricing, the e-auction on Thursday will paint a clearer picture on the current prices but Samarawickrama said the price per kilogram was Rs. 85 prior to the COVID-19 pandemic and that it had dropped to Rs. 75 to Rs. 80 soon after.

“In our plantations, the farmer’s price has been Rs. 45 to Rs. 50 per coconut and it has gone to the market for Rs. 75 or so,” he added.

(FT)

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