A bizarre “war” of sorts has erupted between South Asian neighbors, India and Sri Lanka – a “coconut war.”
Last year, Sri Lanka suffered an unprecedented shortage of coconuts, a long-time staple for the tropical island nation.
However, after receiving a large shipment of the nuts from India, Sri Lankan authorities realized they had too many coconuts – resulting in a local MP ordering the goods to be dumped into the ocean, so as not to hurt the price that Sri Lankan coconut growers receive at the market.
According to BBC, during an appearance in parliament, Johnston Fernando, Cabinet Minister of Co-operatives & Internal Trade, disclosed that more than 22,000 imported Indian coconuts – valued at 690,000 Sri Lankan rupees ($6,065) -- were tossed into the ocean last year. Apparently, the shortage of the nuts had significantly eased by then.
Fernando was mocked, with some MPs suggesting the nuts should have been distributed to the poor in Sri Lanka.
Opposition lawmaker Dayasiri Jayasekera asked Fernando: I'd like to ask you who took the decision to destroy them [the coconuts] and import them?
In response, the trade minister said: At the time there was a coconut shortage. The opposition made a big fuss about it.
Jayasekera derided his response and retorted: Tomorrow if chickens are brought in and then there's no shortage, will they be destroyed too? What about eggs?
He also berated the government, lamenting that there is no point in talking to a government which does such mad things.”
Reportedly, the “coconut shortage” occurred because too many palm plantations were being converted into housing developments, therefore reducing production.
According to a report last year from Agence France Presse, a shortage of coconuts in Sri Lanka is no joke – it has even had severe political implication, including the collapse of some governments.
Indeed, the hard-shelled fruit is so important to the local economy and culture Sri Lanka even has a government official who is called the Minister of Coconut Development.
Last year, the minister in question Jagath Pushpakumara proudly boasted to Sri Lankan media: “The opposition has begun to charge that in the past coconuts were exported and now coconuts have to be imported. I would like to tell you that we have not allowed a single coconut to be imported into the country. I would state that we did not allow a single coconut to be imported as we stood by the decision that was taken to protect the local coconut cultivation.”