A heritage of rich bio diversity, Sri Lanka is named the ‘Pearl of the Indian Ocean, , No country in the world has such dispersed assets of natural resources with rich soils and climatic belts to give birth to a multitude of plants and animals with an enormous combination of genes.
Thanks to the blessings of nature, soil of Mother Sri Lanka gave birth to a unique plant, which carved the way to put Sri Lanka into the world map, as the birth place of true cinnamon or Ceylon cinnamon which has the given name Cinnamomum zeylanicum or Canella in Spanish understanding.
For an immemorial period of time, Cinnamon and Ceylon appeared to be the synonyms in the world trade of spices. Along the silk way, Muslims and Arabs came to the Pearl island of Taprobane for cinnamon and other spices. The Chinese, Indians and other developed nations in antiquity visited Sri Lanka to collect the treasure of cinnamon.
In the colonial era, beginning from 1505, Portuguese and then the Dutch invaded Sri Lanka and got into their hands command of cinnamon plantations in the low country. The Sinhala king at the hill country had to sign a specific treaty with the Dutch Governors to provide tonnage of cinnamon to the Dutch government.
Once the Englishmen introduced tea to Sri Lanka in the 18th century displacing the forest reserves in the hill country, cinnamon was maintained as the dominant crop in the low country wet and intermediate zones.
With the increase demand for natural products in the food industry and the pharmacological sector, cinnamon products have gained a very high demand in the export market.
We are proud to say that 90% of the world cinnamon demand is supplied by Sri Lanka, and in the year 2001 export earning from cinnamon was Rs. 3.9 billion.
Major products of the cinnamon industry are Cinnamon quills, Leaf oil, and Bark oil. Other than these cinnamon chips and quislings are some secondary products of the cinnamon processing industry.
Since Sri Lanka is the birth place of true cinnamon, all the customs, traditions, culture and technology associated with cinnamon are well integrated as a heritage to the socio economy of our nation. Cinnamon quills produced in Sri Lanka, are specially designated as Ceylon Cinnamon, since there are differences not only on the basis of morphology, but also in the deemed superiority in the flavour quality of the product. Products produced in Seychelles and Madagascar are also found in the market and are named accordingly.
Dark brown patches found on the surface of quills are called foxing. Quills are graded based on the amount of foxings, their size and colour. Quills free from foxing are considered to be the best.
Cinnamon leaves left in the field are bundled and sent for distillation of cinnamon leaf oil which is a very valuable product used in the pharmacological field and toothpaste industry. Leaf oil is rich with euginol which has high medicinal value.
Cinnamon bark oil plays a very vital role in the pharmacological and perfumery industry. Sri Lanka is the dominating supplier of bark oil to the world market. The principal ingredient of bark oil is Zinamaldehyde. The price of bark oil may vary from Rs.18,000-300,000 /litre based on the chemical composition.
Distillation process for cinnamon bark oil is done in special distilleries, small in size, with more precision control. The recovery rate of bark oil from the bark is less and as such to make one litre of cinnamon bark oil, about 50 kg of cinnamon may have to be distilled. Therefore, the cost of a bottle of bark oil will be around Rs.20-30,000.
From the foregoing it is clear that cinnamon is a crop indigenous to our country, which is well integrated with our social life and technological know how. Our fore fathers have developed the technology to cater to the then demands. Our task today is to engage with a new technology development program to cater to the tomorrow’s needs. Researchers, Growers, peelers, vendors, exporters, politicians and all well wishes of the cinnamon industry have to get together to elevate the cinnamon industry to higher levels to convert Sri Lanka to become the world’s topmost country in the cinnamon chapter.