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Asian Tribune is published by World Institute For Asian Studies|Powered by WIAS Vol. 12 No. 2586

Cinnamon growers and exporters team up to tap the potential world cinnamon market

By Quintus Perera - Asian Tribune

Colombo, 05 June, (Asiantribune.com): Though there are so many - politicians, economists and planners speak of the potentials, economy and development, when one visualizes what is actually happening in the country, it is apparent that none of them are concerned about the potentials in the country, economy or development. Since independence even those which brought foreign exchange - the cash crops such as tea, coconut and rubber have been neglected and have been harping on industrialization until the country was found nodding when there appeared great demand for them and the country not only failed to cater to the global demand, but also failed to meet the local demand on rubber and coconut.

In the meantime it is also very unfortunate that Sri Lanka has failed to identify the gold mines like potential of the cinnamon plantation though it has been a commercial crop exported since ancient times. Throughout the history cinnamon has been cultivated by small holders in an unorganized way. Traditional method of peeling of CinnamonTraditional method of peeling of Cinnamon

Ceylon Cinnamon is more synonymous than Ceyon Tea to Sri Lanka as the cinnamon plant is native to Sri Lanka and the entire world calls it 'Cinnamomum Zelanicum (Zelanicum means Ceylon')

According to history, Portuguese headed by Don Lorenzo de Almeida invaded Ceylon in 1505 to have a monopoly in the cinnamon trade followi\ed by the Dutch and the British. There are references of cinnamon in the Old Testament of the Bible and it goes as far as to the era of Roman Emperor Nero in AD 66 burning cinnamon at the funeral of his queen as a measure of grief.

Sri Lanka is the largest producer of True Cinnamon in the world, producing 90 percent of global exports, and now a group of industry people are attempting to use this to market Ceylon Cinnamon to become a brand along the lines of Ceylon tea and to prevent Sri Lankan Cinnamon trade from losing global market eight cinnamon growers and two exporters have teamed up to form a large company in the name and style “U10 Certified Ceylon Cinnamon (CCC) in a joint effort to promote Cinnamon Industry in Sri Lanka.

As still in Sri Lanka applies primitive techniques in the cinnamon industry which has been dirty and as the international buyers specially the European Union countries insist that all food items should have to be made under very high hygienic conditions, studies and research have been continuously done to improve the industry under acceptable hygienic conditions.

At a press conference held at Cinnamon Grand Hotel it was revealed that cinnamon peeling has throughout been done under very dirty conditions and the peelers sit on the clay floors in out-huts from as early as 5 am and go on peeling till around 10 pm and they wore dirty clothes.Modern method of peeling of CinnamonModern method of peeling of Cinnamon
Yet cinnamon has been the largest foreign exchange earner and employment provider in the local spices industry.

U10 Certified Ceylon Cinnamon (CCC) is a group of diverse professionals from the cinnamon industry who formed one company with the intention of devoting their experience and expertise to combat the problems of the industry faced both locally and internationally

Dr I R Ferdinand, Chairman, U10 said that the traditional peeling of cinnamon has been there for the last 4 centuries and they are being done in sheds and they are in poor hygienic conditions and the peelers living conditions have been worst and if these conditions are not changed they stand to loose their markets.

To change this situation the group collaborated with the GTZ PMSME project to have a model factory and the SGS certification agency to conduct training and awareness programmes for all manufacturing tiers in factories on the requirements for ISO certification. ISO 22000 certification under EU regulations require food and agriculture products supply chains to be streamlined in accordance with the procedures of Good Manufacturing Practices (GMP) and Good Agricultural Practices (GAP)

Explaining the formation of U10 Dr Ferdinand said that the major product of cinnamon plant is quills and the preparation of quill is a unique art in Sri Lanka, which commands over 80 percent of the global production of true cinnamon. He said that although the country exports around 12,000 metric tons of cinnamon annually and supplies 90 percent of the traded cinnamon worldwide, Sri Lanka’s total exports meets only 20 percent of the global demand, with the shortfall generated the country’s main market rival, Cassia.

He said that though Sri Lanka has responded poorly to the heavy global demand, as Cassia contains Coumarin, Sri Lanka stands a greater opportunity. The substance is associated with hepatotoxicity and liver damage.

Cinnamon manufacturers have been criticized for not improving production to an internationally competitive level. Dr Ferdinand said that with the shortage of peelers, the volume of production has declined.

The other crippling factor is that the stringent regulations of the European Union, requiring all food and agricultural imports to be ISO certified for safety and hygiene standards. Another primary problem is the cost of cinnamon fertilizer. To conform effectively to the certification standards U10 has created the ‘Certified Ceylon cinnamon’.

Customarily cinnamon is fumigated with sulfur, but the EU bans on sulfur fumigation. U10 expects that certified cinnamon will be without sulfur fumigation but would be dried naturally.

Instead of sheds U10 is building factories with better hygienic conditions and also the peelers would be provided with quarters. They are also soliciting assistance from the Ruhuna University to have modern techniques of peeling and already some methods are in the pipe line.

Beyond the primary product, they also develop a value added segment of finished products in Sri Lanka like cinnamon power, cut cinnamon, cinnamon bark oil or cinnamon health capsules.

Prof K D N Weerasinghe, Dean, Faculty of Agricultural Engineering, University of Ruhuna traced the history of cinnamon industry and said that Sri Lanka was the only country growing cinnamon and it is indigenous to Sri Lanka. and in ancient times Greeks and Romans had been using our cinnamon. All the foreign invaders who captured Sri Lanka had also concentrated in cinnamon.

He said that the dearth of skilled workers is causing a major problem as young people do not want to join the industry because there is very little modern technology is involved in the cinnamon processing industry. He said that along with the GTZ a German funding agency, the group has been able to construct nine new factories in an attempt to change this drawback.

He said that the scarcity of cinnamon peelers especially has affected the industry as as the whole peeling process is still very labour-oriented, despite being tedious.

He said that the other cash crops like Tea, Coconut and Rubber originated from other countries and technology for them has been developed, while as cinnamon has originated from Sri Lanka itself no technology for that industry has been developed.

Mrs Champika Amarasekara, Director, U10 said that they had serious ups and downs in the past but now they have realized their dream with the formation of U10 as most significant hurdles that would have impeded this otherwise lucrative market has now been cleared.

- Asian Tribune -

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