Just as humans grow old and can become less productive at work (with many sharp exceptions), so does a workhorse of the Asian confectionary industry; the coconut tree.

It lives almost as long, and, says the Coconut Cultivation Board of Sri Lanka, decides to retire at roughly the same age.

Complaining that 18.5% of the island's nut bearing palms have grown "senile" and past their productive peak at 60 years plus, the board's chairman Lincoln Fernando wants to replenish stocks with younger, fresher, trees.

A focus will be the north, where the Tamil Tigers held sway in the island's recently quelled civil war. There, trees have not only had to fight old age, but deal with shells and multi-barrelled rocket launchers, which destroyed 30-35% of local plantations.

By Swineetha Dia Wickramanayaka, in Columbo