The government of Sri Lanka has banned palm oil imports and new palm plantations as well as telling producers to uproot existing plantations, Reuters reported on 5 April.

Sri Lanka’s president Gotabaya Rajapaksa was quoted as saying in a statement that the aim was to “make the country free from oil palm plantation and palm oil consumption.”

“Those companies and entities which have done such (palm oil) cultivations shall be required to remove them in a phased manner with 10% uprooting at a time and replacing it with the cultivation of rubber or environmental-friendly crops each year,” the statement continued.

Sri Lanka imports around 200,000 tonnes/year of palm oil, mainly from Indonesia and Malaysia, according to estimates from traders, Reuters wrote, with the number of plantations increasing in recent years.

Environmentalists claim palm oil production has led to widespread deforestation and damage to ecosystems.

Sri Lanka has around 11,000ha of palm plantations – just over 1% of the total planted area, according to estimates from the country’s Palm Oil Industry Association.