The Agricultural Development Ministry has introduced a new technique to process banana leaves and other natural leaves for utilisation as food wrappers instead of polythene. Banana leaves and other natural leaves would be processed by heat methods to be used as a substitute for polythene.
Speaking at a seminar organised by the Ministry of Agricultural Development to popularise new food wrappers made out of banana leaves, Minister Chamal Rajapaksa said the Government has banned the utilisation, manufacture and sale of polythene which are less than 20 microns due to its harmful effects on the environment.
The Minister said this technique has been invented by Research Officer Dr. Sujatha Weerasinghe attached to the Agricultural Research Institute in Thelijjawila. `We are in the process of creating public awareness on the merits of using the banana leaf as food wrappers. Though polythene wrappers are easy and cheap, it degrades the environment,` the Minister added. He said with the popularising of the technique, a huge demand for banana leaves would be created.
`We will provide facilities for banana farmers to boost their cultivation islandwide. The technique is available with agricultural authorities and we expect to build private sector partnership to implement this project.
The Ministry is already in the process of developing entrepreneurship in manufacturing food wrappers made out of banana leaves,` the Minister said.
Dr. Weerasinghe said this technique already has a huge demand from the hotel industry. She said banana leaves can be easily processed by heating and can be preserved for a long time. Processed leaves can be used for at least five days after washing. It also can be stored in bundles in refrigerators for a month.
She said not only banana leaves but Nelum, kenda, halmilla, diyapara and buthsarana leaves too could be similarly processed.
Explaining the process, she said suitable pieces would be cut from the banana leaf and washed before heating.
Thereafter it should be left to dry for 10 minutes before storing. This is a profitable business for banana farmers and they can earn an additional income by selling leaves along with the bananas.