Last year Leslie Varghese from Kerala, India visited Sri Lanka to look for Malwana rambutan. This year he sent his director of their farm here. We went on a rambutan tour on June 17, 2014 to both Kaduwela and Malwana.
Jose loves fruits. He has a big farm in Kerala which he started as a private venture and now doing well with a staff of around 100 people. They grow a number of fruits including rambutan. Jose fell in love with Malwana rambutan as he thinks it is the best variety in the world. He has traveled to Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand, etc. where rambutans are grown but says Malwana is the best.
I met Jose at Ja Ela and we went to his hotel in Wellawatte through Katunayaka – Colombo Expressway. After having lunch we first went to Kaduwela using hotel transport. We stopped at Koswaththa and tasted some rambutans and a durian there. There were both yellow and red rambutans and both tasted equally good. Jose is of the view that durians in Thailand are the tastiest.
From there we went to Sudu Mahaththaya’s rambutan farm in Kaduwela. I was supposed to be the interpreter to Jose throughout the tour but I found the young driver of the hotel, Mohammad was up to the job and was doing the interpreting part very well. He had attended an international school in Wattala and joined the hospitality industry as he sees a bright future in it.
Sudu Mahaththaya’s nephew was in the farm and he was first reluctant to let us come into the farm but after we explained our purpose which was to learn about rambutan farming he let us in and answered all the questions put up by Jose. Sudu Mahaththaya’s farm is around 20 acres big according to the nephew and they have planted some durian trees also in the farm. We tasted a durian there and it was very tasty. According to the nephew the seeds were brought from Thailand and planted there. Though Jose wanted to buy red rambutans here they were all ordered by businessmen in Jaffna. They were packing them into 500-fruits-packages to be ready for the buyers. We ate yellow rambutans there. Jose met a group of fellow Keralites in front of the farm. They were very happy to see each other and had quite a lengthy chat with each other.
Next we went to Malwana. Rambutan season in Malwana was almost coming to an end. First we went to a small garden where around 10 rambutan trees were available. These small gardens belong to the villagers and they sell the harvest for a smaller profit for small scale buyers as the villagers cannot wait till the big buyers. Big buyers go to bigger farms.
Then we went to another farm in Malwana. Coincidentally this was the same farm I took Leslie last year. It had big rambutan trees that were more than 20 years old. The farm had been leased out to a small scale businessman and he looked after the farm. He had taken the farm for a 600,000 LKR lease for the season.
Next we went to Silva’s rambutan farm in Malwana. Silva was not available. That was a pretty big farm and the trees were much younger. There were three workers who answered all questions asked by Jose and we spent some good time there. They were very friendly despite the fact that we were not buying rambutans. After all the questions were answered we said goodbye to the workers. They gave some rambutans to us free of charge. Though Jose tried to pay, they refused to take them. This is the Sri Lankan hospitality you could see in most parts of Sri Lanka, especially in villages.
This year, rambutan price started at 10 rupees a fruit and have now come down to 3.50 rupees a fruit. Since the season is coming to an end, the price can again go up to 10 rupees a fruit in the farms. The farmers have to take a lot of precautions to safeguard the harvest. They light bulbs at night over the tree canopy. They use a homemade device to make an unpleasant sound to scare away birds and bats at night. The farmers say that they do not consider much about parrots and squirrels eating fruits during the day time as the damage is not significant and they believe that they too have a right to eat the fruits as they also live in the immediate environment.
Since I felt Mohammad, the driver can do the interpreting job well I asked Jose that it would be advisable for him to go on tour with Mohammad the next day. Mohammad is a good contact if any English speaking tourist wants to travel in Sri Lanka. His driving is good and communication skills in Sinhala, Tamil and English are commendable. Jose had planned to go to Kandy the next day. We came back to Pettah and I said goodbye to Jose and Mohammad.