Sri Lankan visit highlights good working conditions

Article taken from the Three Counties Farmer

Two Herefordshire-based soft fruit growers have journeyed to the Indian sub-continent to discover more about coir.

George Leeds from Ledbury and Eric Drummond from Ross-on-Wye joined producers on a visit to coir (cocopeat) producer Botanicoir at its Sri Lankan factory, to view the production process from start to finish.

George uses coir strawberry growbags, which mean he’s been able to move his plants to table tops, resulting in less wastage, increased picking speeds and a better working environment.

“We get less wastage from dirt and soil and mud splash and we get better yields from the substrate that we use.  This lowers picking costs, and gives us better picking conditions for our workers, which is very important to us,” said George, director at Withers Fruit Farm, which grows 150 acres of strawberries near Ledbury.

With employee welfare and environmentally friendly and sustainable growing methods of importance, George was keen to discover more about Botanicoir’s processing methods from the raw coconut husk right through to the bagged coir, and said he was impressed with what he saw.

“We find the service is very good and the product has a good open texture and great quality, which is a key factor for producing such a large crop,” he said.

Eric Drummond, director of EC Drummond in Ross, said he was very pleased to view the environmentally friendly process.

“Producing by-products from coconuts is a tremendous opportunity for people in Sri Lanka, and Botanicoir brings their employees first-world benefits.

“It was fascinating to see the entire process, and it’s amazing to see just how the coir is produced.  We also went to the coconut research station, and learned about the different types of processes,” he said.

The group was invited to the factory by directors Samantha and Kalum Balasuriya.

Kalum said: “We were pleased to welcome our British producers to Sri Lanka.

“Hopefully we have given our customers a better understanding of some of the challenges we face in bringing them such a high-quality product.”

Botanicoir’s partner company is Agrovista UK.

Mark Davies, commercial head of Agrovista UK’s fruit business, said: “It is great to see Botanicoir tackling issues in such a pro-active manner, giving us, our growers and their customers the confidence we are using the right partner to supply responsibly produced, high quality coir substrates for the production of Class 1 fresh UK soft fruit.” 


01 June 2015

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