Speech By Mr Sarada De Silva

Mr. Bodahandi Sarada Mohanjith De Silva

Mr. Sarada

Speech By Mr. Sarada De Silva, Founder and Emeritus Chairman of Spice Council of Sri Lanka at the launch of the book on Cinnamon edited by Prof. Ranjith Senaratne and Dr. Ranjith Pathirana on 30th November.2021 at the BMICH.

Dr. Ramesh Pathirana, Honourable Minister of Plantations, Dr. Seetha Arambepola, Honourable Minister Skill Development, Vocational Education, Prof. Ranjith Senaratne, Dr. P.A. Heenkenda, Mr. Rizvi Zaheed, Mr. D. A Perera, Excellency the Ambassador of Netherlands, Excellencies, Distinguish Invitees, Ladies and Gentlemen.

It gives me great pleasure to say a few words on the timely launch of this very important book on Ceylon Cinnamon from the cinnamon industry’s view point.

I wish to thank Prof. Ranjith Senaratne & Dr. Ranjith Pathirana, who edited and many who have contributed to the chapters in the book. The publishers Springer should be highly commended. Also the book launched by Prof. Ranjith Senaratne, The Future of the Agriculture, and the Agriculture of the Future is highly commendable.

Prof. Ranjith Senaratne is one of the few academics to take note of the significance of Ceylon Cinnamon to the Southern Province, he started various research and technical programs to assist the cinnamon industry.

I wish to specially thank Mr. D. A. Perera for sponsoring this book launch today.

Though there are so many research publications, monographs, booklets, and leaflets published in Sri Lanka on Ceylon Cinnamon, a concise textbooks for common readers those who seek information about Ceylon cinnamon has not been published with international repute.

It is long felt need covering most area in the Cinnamon Industry that has been fulfilled. 

It will not be right if I do not refer to the historical aspect of Ceylon Cinnamon and its current trends in Sri Lanka.

According Dr. K. D. G. Wimalaratne, former director of Archives, it is recorded during the reign of  Egyptian Pharaoh Queen Hatshepsut in heliographic records in 1500 B.C. Which is over 3500 years ago.

The famous Roman emperor Nero burnt as incense one years supply of Cinnamon as a penance on the death of his queen.

Pliny the roman elder, records that in Rome cinnamon was twice the value of silver.

We have records of Sri Lankan kings sending emissaries with ships full of Cinnamon, Pearls and Ivory to the courts of Rome and China.

Portuguese conquered the coastal area because of cinnamon.

According to late Dr. Colvin R. De Silva he wrote in his thesis, I quote “The Vagaries of wind and weather brought Portuguese to Sri Lanka but the lure of Cinnamon made them stay”. In 1505, the Portuguese Naval Captain, Lorenzo De Almeida going to Goa got caught in a storm was blown off course and landed in Galle.  They were taken on circuitous route to meet the king. Famous story Parangiya Kotte giya wage.

We have a recorded history of Sri Lankan ports Manthota (Mannar), Uruthota (Vakari) and Godawaya in Ambalanthota were cinnamon other precious items were exported.

Uruthota is from where Thapassu Baluka brought first Buddha’s relics.

Godawaya stone inscription is the oldest on record were the kings levied charges on ships. Also how the charges should distributed and used. 

A copy of that is in the museum of the customs at its head office.

Portuguese rule of coastal areas and dominated the cinnamon trade. Many decrees were formulated to ruthlessly govern the areas under them.

According Dr. Hemakumara Nanayakara former Governor of the Southern Province one such decree was, Cutting of a Cinnamon tree and giving alms to Buddhist priest was punishable with death.

Prof. Nimal Ranjith Dewasiri has researched and recorded the rebellious nature and how Salagama community protected the Ceylon Cinnamon industry. Dutch tried exploit to the maximum the Cinnamon industry by planting more and more cinnamon in the coastal areas under their control as the Sri Lankan Kings were refusing to supply the increased quantities demanded by the Dutch. It ended up with the famous Haguranketha agreement between King Kithsiri Rajasinghe and the Dutch Governor. King agreed to supply cinnamon in return for protection and chasing away the remaining Portuguese. Famous saying “inguru dela miris gatha wage”

The Dutch were so oppressive rulers they continued to force cinnamon peelers to produce more and more to maximise their profit. In 1723 Cinnamon peelers revolted against the Dutch oppression. Probably the first time that a vocation has revolted and refused to work. 

This was long before the stone masons struck work in Australia and the famous Haymarket strike in Chicago, USA on 01st May 1886.

Dutch brought Governor Petrus Vuyst who ruled ruthlessly from 1726 to 1729.

He tried to control by beheading a few and harassing the masses for sometime.

His rule was so ruthless that he was recalled to Batavia as his methods were counter productive as cinnamon peelers and the community resorted to other methods.

Governor Petrus was court marshalled and punished by the Dutch.

The British who took over coastal areas and the Cinnamon trade were more cunning. They quelled the resistance by introducing incentives and liquor.

During the British rule they had appointed a captain for the cinnamon Industry with direct link to the British Governor. This captain was given permission to rule the areas from Puttalam to Matara, Katuwana the last british fort in the southern belt as Maha badda. Last of them was Maha Mudliyar Samson Rajapaksha of Kappini Walawwe, Balapitiya. Famous film Gamperaliya was filmed in this Walawwe.

The Portuguese and Dutch introduced cinnamon to North, Central and South America.The Portuguese, Dutch and British controlled the Ceylon Cinnamon trade even after they left. They dominated by being the agents and controlling shipping in the cinnamon trade.

There is some evidence that during the Mongolian rulers Kubali Khan and Genghis Khan periods, Cinnamon and other products were taken to America’s by crossing the Barring straits connecting current Russia to America. I have found the there is information in Oaxaca, Mexico that cinnamon was used by them long before America were discovered by Columbus.

In fact the Mexicans say that when Conquistador Hernando Cortes arrived in Tenochtitlán, Mexico to meet the  Aztecs ruler Mortezuma, he was eating chocolate with cinnamon. Mexico is the home of Vanilla and Chocolate.

We need to do more research, verify and document these.

As I mentioned earlier, The Portuguese, Dutch and British controlled the cinnamon trade even after they left, It was only in the 1950’s that Sri Lankan’s started to take control and went directly to buyers in Mexico which still remains our biggest market. 

This was all due to efforts of Late Mr. Duteram De Silva, Late Mr. Ali Mohamed Chatoor, Late Mr. Darsin De Silva, Late Mr. Scilius Wickramsinghe and others. The first cinnamon exporters to visit Mexico was late Mr. Ali Mohamed Chatoor and late Mr. Anwar Chatoor in 1960 followed by the others mentioned. Mr. Louis Lozano of Mexico helped a number of companies deal directly with buyers in Mexico.

Ceylon Cinnamon Association was formed with assistance of the late Mr. Ranjith Kularatne, Director DEA involving all actors of the cinnamon industry being the first registered society in Ceylon Cinnamon 1998.

In 2003 the Spice Council was setup as Public & Private sector, to develop the Spice Industry. In 2005 we lobbied the World Custom Organisation to bifurcate Cinnamon and Cassia into two different Harmonised System Codes. This came into legal effect in 2007. The Role played by Dr. Neville Gunawardena, Deputy Director of Custom, Ms. Gothami Silva, Director, Department of Commerce and late R.O.B. Wijesekera assisted us in getting this done. Without them this effort would not have succeeded. Research to identify chemically and visually was done by ate R.O.B. Wijesekera.

Ms. Gothami Silva is now our Ambssador to World Trade Orgainisation and we should make full use her capabilities to promote cinnamon.

At the International Standards Organisation, ISO6539, we were able to defend our botanical name cinnamomum zeylanicum Blume at ISO annual conferences held in Paris,Teheran and Kochi, India. Prof. Jayasiri Lankage who did all the research and single handedly defended it at the these conferences must be recognised and the industry is thankful to him.

In 2007, Mr. D.A Perea and I visited American Spice Traders Centenary Celebration and European Spice Association annual sessions armed with separate H. S. Code and ISO standard. We educated the buyers of the difference between Cinnamon and Cassia and specially high coumarin content in Cassia. Presentations on Ceylon Cinnamon was done at both conferences were done by me.

What the cinnamon industry has done collectively over the years have benefited all value chain actors with better returns.

Average selling priced of Ceylon Cinnamon in 2007 was 6 USD it had moved up to  10 USD by 2010. Sadly average prices slightly started dropping after that due to poor quality, less higher value cinnamon being produced.

In 2012 we launched the Ceylon Cinnamon Lion Logo with EDB and in 2013 it was launched internationally at Anuga Trade fair.

A clinical study of efficacy of Ceylon Cinnamon on diabetes and lipids was started in 2014 after all most two years it was abandoned due to lack of funding from the government.

National Science Foundation funded up to Rs. 150 million for many research programs, we are waiting to see the final outcomes.

We realised the certifications demanded by sophisticated markets for Product, Process and Personal certification. We already had Product, Process in place. The need arose for international level personal training.

To fulfil this need we setup the Cinnamon Training Academy (CTA) with the assistance World Trade Organisation - Standards and Trade Development Fund (WTO-STDF) , United Nations Industrial Development Organisation (UNIDO),  Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO),  European Union (EU), Government of Sri Lanka and Private Sector investors. We developed National Vocational Qualification (NVQ) and CTA is the only Tertiary Vocational Education Commission (TVEC) recognised and accredited to give NVQ qualifications for Cinnamon Factory and Field operations level 3 & 4. With assistance of European Union funding we established a fully equipped Bought Tree Factory (BTF) in the CTA premises. Second stage of the CTA though in the budget speech of 2020 funds were not realised and it was never implemented. I hope at least 2022 funds will be released and implemented. 

Sri Lanka is on the verge of getting its first Geographical indications (GI). We have been working on it since 1994 when we got Ceylon Cinnamon included in the Nation,al Intellectual Property (NIPO) law protected as a GI along with Ceylon Tea, Ceylon Blue Sapphires. We value and thank the late Honourable Kingesly Wickramaratne, former Minister of Trade who accepted our suggestion and included it the NIPO law. With UNIDO and EU assistance, the first visit to Brussels and Geneva was undertaken in 2013 to explore GI by the legal Officer EDB, Ms Thakshila Wijeratne, two UNIDO consultants and me. 

We have been working with the Cinnamon Industry, EDB, EU, UNIDO and DEA ever since.

The Ceylon Cinnamon Geographical Indication Association (CCGIA) was formed to take this forward. We now have a situation that one or two government officials want to dominate and take control the GI process and Association. A good example is the recently obtained GI for Kampot pepper from Cambodia, the Kampot GI association is totally managed by the private sector fully assisted by the Government and EU.

We wish to profusely thank the European Union, USAID, WTO-STDF, UNIDO without them most of these activities would not have been possible.

Also to the Export Development Board and its chairmen who assist us.

Dr. Heenkeda and most of his officials of the DEA must be thanked

As in the past Portuguese Dutch and British who controlled the cinnamon trade, even now one or two government officials still want to control cinnamon trade as done by our conquers. 

Today we export Ceylon Cinnamon to over 65 countries and some are re exported to other countries. Mexico Still remains are main market importing 50% of our production. In the last few years there has been marked increase in import of cassia into Mexico mainly due to high price. El Bimbo the largest manufacturer and distributor of bakery products moved fully to cassia some years back. The need to improve productivity and bring cost of production down needs to be stressed.

We have value addition at the highest level but many more actors must get into value addition than sending bulk. What we need now is end user product development and move up the value chain. Organic sector is growing, This area we can with the current policy of the government.

We can be happy that we have done better in exports in the last three years.

In 2020 exports were better than 2019 and in 2021 in the first 10 months is better than 2020 this is a commendable achievement by all stake holders in the value chain in spite of the Covid -19 lockdowns, disruptions and increase in freight rates.

Hon Minister Dr. Ramesh Pathirane, 

We are thankful for all the efforts you, your State Minister Honourable Janaka Wakkumburura, your ministry and DEA is taking to develop the Cinnamon Industry.

We in the Cinnamon Industry want a separate Cinnamon Development Authority established at its earliest. While much smaller commodities have their own authorities like Palmyrah, Kitul. Cinnamon has been prevented from achieving its true potential due to a lack of a single Authority to handle all areas of activity.

We need to conserve the botanical name cinnamomum zeylanicum Blume at the International Botanical Congress. We need a taxonomist to write to the Taxon journal. All the research has been done by Prof. Jayasiri Lankage. This book launched today will strengthen our case.

We need to properly document the historical records of Cinnamon. 

I request you to appoint a committee consisting of high level officers from History Department of Colombo University, Department of Archives, Museums, other University Academics, DG of DEA, Researchers and Private sector actors, to research, collect and document the historical records of Cinnamon.

We also seek your assistance to sort out the issues in the Ceylon Cinnamon Geographical Indication Association (CCGIA) urgently.

Hon Minister  Dr. Seetha Arambepola, We have with your ministries approval TVEC accredited NVQ qualifications for Cinnamon Factory and Field operations.

We are now in the planning stage of implementing the same for Pepper, Cloves and Nutmeg.

We seek you and your ministries assistance going forward with this. We have already received Project Proposal Grant from WTO-STDF and we are confident of receiving foreign funding from WTO-STDF, EU, other donor countries and UN agencies provided that the Government and the private sector too fund part of this project.

We are thankful to the Government of Hon. Gotabaya Rajapaksha, President, former President and Prime Minister, Hon. Mahinda Rajapaksha, Hon. Mahinda Yapa Abeywardena, Speaker, Hon. Basil  Rajapaksha, Finance Minister, Hon. G.L Peiris, Hon. Bandula Gunawaradena for assistance given to us. We have been able to meet all of them at short notice whenever we have issues.

Finally, I wish to thank Prof. Ranjith Senaratne & Dr. Ranjith Pathirana and all others who burnt mid night oil to contribute to the chapters in the book. Without them this would not have been possible.

I hope that many more researchers and academics will write more about Ceylon Cinnamon which has history of  3500 years or more.  

Thank you.
Sarada De Silva.
Speech By Mr Sarada De Silva