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Lanka’s fledgling bamboo industry gets UNIDO backing, aims 10000 Ha coverage by 2018

Sep 5, 2011 3:12:21 PM - www.ft.lk

Sri Lanka’s fledgling bamboo industry is boosted by a wave of support from UNIDO. “Sri Lanka has now begun to realize the value of promoting Bamboo as an industry thanks to the efforts of UNIDO. With its initial support funds of US $ 20 million, we are aiming at developing a bamboo supply chain and product industry in the country” announced Rishad Bathiudeen, Minister of Industry & Commerce.

 In his absence due to unavoidable circumstances, Minister Rishad’s official message was delivered by Sidat Kumar, Sri Lanka’s Deputy Director of Commerce, on Monday 05 September at the launch event of Seminar on Bamboo Processing in Sri Lanka, at Galle Face Hotel in Colombo. The Seminar is part of the Phase III of the Industrial Development Support Programme of UNIDO, under the Ministry of Industry and Commerce of Sri Lanka. Several Bamboo and tissue culture experts from India will lead knowledge sharing in Colombo’s two day seminar. Among them are Dr Syam Wishwanath (Tissue culture expert), K Hazarika (Financial Consultant), Jadish Borah (Managing Director –North Eastern Handicrafts and Handlooms Development Corporation), &Ms Shipra Biswa (UNIDO New Delhi).
“Sri Lanka has now begun to realize the value of promoting Bamboo as an industry thanks to the efforts of UNIDO, in cooperation with the Ministry of Industry and Commerce. With a total value of US $ 20 million, the project will aim at developing a bamboo supply chain and product industry in the country. There are no large scale bamboo plantations in Sri Lanka either by the public or private sectors and currently bamboo cultivation is done in the country by informal sectors in small scale, except the cultivations under the Riverine Bamboo Project of Mahaweli Authority of Sri Lanka.
The Sri Lanka Forestry Master Plan of 1995 identified that protection of bamboos of the country ‘to be a priority.’ This reinforces the opportunity to develop this industry, and gives an additional benefit. That is, we can also focus on mass production of bamboo. I propose that we also need to look into the possibility of bamboo export as the second step of this project once we achieve self- sufficiency in our supply chain. The key advantage we have at this moment is that we are in a special situation where we are formally pioneering bamboo industry for the first time in this country and this situation therefore gives us the opportunity to plan for branding of our yellow bamboos from the very first step in the development of the industry. I believe that initially we can export bamboo as a raw material as “Sri Lanka Bamboo” and later on, we can identify value addition options.
Even more importantly, I stress my earlier statement at the Presidential Exports Awards in early July where I urged to pay attention to “green exports” and bamboo industry therefore clearly strengthens our green exports capacity due to its environmental friendliness. I am also happy to inform you that My Ministry with the coordination of the Ministry of Environment, Ministry of Plantations and the Department of Forest Conservation have taken steps to remove the bottlenecks pertaining to the cultivation, cutting, transportation and the  production of the bamboo  and this workshop is the starting point in that effort” Minister Bathiudeen said.             
 Nawaz Rajabdeen, National Director, UNIDO in Colombo, revealed: “Sri Lanka’s current bamboo cultivation could be valued at Rs 220 mil (US $ 1.99 mil) with an estimated coverage extent of 5166 Ha of which 2500 Ha are grown by the Mahaweli Authority. The Authority cultivates them in marginal tea lands and river banks of the Mahaweli zone” and added: “Another 2666 Ha are estimated to be spread across the rest of the country, with Kalutara and Kurunegala  Districts holding the bulk of it.”  The Mahaweli Authority on its own has planted 500,000 bamboo plants since 2006 to to-date. No estimates on Sri Lanka’s annual bamboo production values are collated to-date due to the informal nature of this sector.
  Revealing UNIDO’s latest plans to push bamboo cultivation in the country, Antonios Levissianos, UNIDO Deputy Representative for South Asia said: “UNIDO has been involved in the World’s bamboo industry for the last 11 years. We plan 2000 Hectares of new bamboo cultivation annually in Sri Lanka from 2012, and envisage 10000 Ha of bamboo across the country by 2018.”  Levissianos added: “In Sri Lanka, UNIDO started the initial background work on bamboo sector two years ago.”
 “Promising bamboo products and applications specially in the context of Sri Lanka are the boat industry, pellets, wood substitutes, as an energy source,  plywood source, laminated wood, and for wood flooring” revealed Levissianos. “The key objective is to secure the raw material supply for a formal bamboo industry processing through the development of industrial strength bamboo plantations.