The garden of spices and more-By RANDIMA ATTYGALLE
The National Spice Garden in Matale is promised to be a destination of attraction and learning for both local and foreign visitors
Covering an extent of eight hectares, the National Spice Garden coming under the purview of the Central Research Station of the Department of Export Agriculture (DEA) will formally open to the public from March 18. Its location in Matale, (about one km on A9 Matale- Bandarapola road) considered to be the ‘spice hub’ of the island is promised to be more than a plantation but also a tourist attraction adding to the number of other important tourist attractions in the area, says Director (Research), DEA, Dr. Ananda Subasinghe.
“Matale is an agro-ecological zone with favourable climatic factors including a rich soil ideal for spices. Moreover, visitors will have the bonus of seeing multiple tourist attractions nearby of religious, cultural and economic value such as Dambulla, Sigiriya, Riverstern mountain, Pitawala fall grounds and many tea estates.”
The National Spice Garden will have all varieties of the country’s main spices (including cinnamon, pepper, cloves, cardamom, vanilla etc.) 30 herbal species and several allied crops such as betel, arecanut, coffee, citronella, palm rosa, kithul and vetiver.
The project which has so far entailed an investment of 30 million rupees, serves several core objectives says Dr. Subasinghe. “It strives to be an education center for spice growing and display, a promotional hub for export markets for spices, a research center for spices and allied crops, a tourist attraction and a conservation point for many varieties of spices and herbs including wild relatives.” In addition, it also aims to create awareness on the economic importance of spices, disseminate knowledge on good cultivation practices and processing and value addition of spices, a conservation site of related gene pools and a facilitator of knowledge-transfer and expanding the international market for Sri Lankan spices.
The initiative will also a means of income and both direct and indirect employment generation. “Farmers and spice growers can directly supply their products to the sales outlet at the Spice Garden which will first be quality-assessed through the Quality Control Unit of the DEA,” Dr. Subasinghe pointed out. In addition the spice exporters can also establish links with foreign buyers and foreign visitors through this center. “Various divisions of the National Spice Garden alone can generate direct employment opportunities. These include the garden, information centre, sales and processing centres and the soon-to-be-opened restaurant. Tourist guides will also have potential openings through it.” The Information Centre offers the visitor leaflets and books on spices and also has meeting facilities.
The National Spice Garden will also enable both local and foreign visitors to purchase some of the best quality spices grown in the country. It is also envisaged to be an addition to the list of Sri Lanka’s ‘unconventional tourist attractions’.
The place will also offer other attractions such as a spice nursery for those who are looking for best quality planting material and a central research station for further information and studies on spices and herbs and foot paths and jungle corridors for trekkers. It is also a nature lover’s paradise for bird watching. “While four hectares of the total land space allotment (of eight hectares) are fully developed, we intend to develop the remainder in phases including the establishment of mix-cropping models, expansion of the jungle corridor area and beautification and landscaping around the pond areas,” explains Dr. Subasinghe.
The National Spice Garden will be open to the public from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. on weekdays and with expansion, the opening hours are to be extended to the weekends as well.
(For more information contact: 0662222822)
Pic credit: Department of