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Agriculture - Backbone of Sri Lankan economy

Agriculture is linked with Sri Lanka’s cultural heritage from the times of our ancient kings. This sector suffered a total destruction with foreign invasions and it is only development of this sector, in which over 65 percent of our population in engaged in, Sri Lanka could achieve its pristine glory enjoyed in the years of yore.

Fertilizer prices

Due to escalation of fertilizer prices beyond the limit the farmers could afford, and the cruel war prevalent in the Northern and Eastern regions, many of the fertile paddy lands were abandoned by the farmers and it was with the introduction of the fertilizer subsidy and the mechanism of purchasing paddy at a guaranteed price, with the re-establishment of the Paddy Purchasing Board there was a revival in the agriculture sector.


There is a steady increase in paddy production due to fertilizer subsidies granted to
farmers. File photo

Introduction of the Api Wavamu Rata Nagamu program greatly strengthened the agricultural sector and it helped Sri Lanka to subdue the adverse impact many countries suffered from the recent global food crisis and collapse of the economies of the world’s developed countries.

This program encouraged farmers to increase food production, use organic fertilizer instead of expensive imported chemical fertilizer, cultivate abandoned paddy lands, cultivate and increase home gardens and also to cultivate vegetable and fruits and many varieties of food that were imported.

Home Garden projects

The Home Garden projects have been very successful and by the end of last year there were 400,000 home gardens and it is envisaged to increase this number to 500,000 by the end of this year.

In order to revive and strengthen the agricultural sector, the Government has already implemented several massive irrigation projects and some other projects are underway.

The Moragahakanda-Kaluganga Project is one of such massive irrigation and power projects started in January 2007 and progressing satisfactorily.

Over 5,000 hectares of new land in Anuradhapura, Trincomalee and Matale districts will be brought under cultivation through this project. In addition to this it will also generate 20MW electricity. Nearly 3,000 farmer families will be settled under this scheme.

The Kuwait Fund, Saudi Arabia and OPEC Fund are providing assistance for this project.

The Uma Oya Project and Weheragala Reservoir Project are two other major irrigation projects launched to increase paddy production and revive our agriculture.

Uma Oya is a multi-purpose project built under Iranian assistance which would irrigate 5,000 hectares of agricultural land and generate 90MW of electricity.

The Weheragala Project, mainly aimed to revive agriculture in the Uva-Wellassa will bring 5,700 hectares under cultivation.

Due to various forms of subsidies granted to farmers, particularly due to the fertilizer subsidy, there is a steady increase in the paddy production.

Production of paddy during the last five Maha Seasons were very successful and all signs are there that the next Yala season will also be a very successful one.

Abandoned lands

With the end of war large extent of paddy lands which were abandoned for the last several years have been reclaimed as paddy lands.

Steps have also been taken to revive paddy cultivation in other war-affected areas such as Mannar, Vavuniya and in other Northern Districts. The Government also intends to distribute free agricultural land for 100,000 farming families in the Northern and Eastern Provinces.

The Government has established 80 centres in main paddy producing areas for purchase of paddy. These centres pay Rs 28 per kg for Nadu variety and Rs 30 per kg for Samba rice. Any amount of paddy could be sold to these centres. Payment is being made on an unconditional basis and banks have also being instructed not to tie the payments to any form of conditions. Sufficient facilities are available to store the purchased paddy and the Government expects to purchase four million metric tons with the Yala harvest.

The Government maintains a buffer stock of paddy sufficient two months consumption and this stock is released to the market when there is an artificial escalation of prices or when there is a shortage due to adverse weather conditions.

Also farmers are being encourages to cultivate varieties of cereals, vegetables and fruits in order to reduce our dependence on imports. Presently annual expenditure for the import of these food items amounts to about one billion rupees and it is the intention of the Government to make this money available to the local farmers by encouraging in local production. The wheat flour consumption too is being discouraged and instead use of rice flour is being promoted.

Another step being taken by the Ministry in collaboration with the Education Ministry is to promote agriculture at school level and thereby encourage students to take up agriculture as a profession. This program has been very successful and many students who do not continue with their higher studies have shown a keenness to take up agriculture as a profession.

The farming industry itself is being modernized with the use of modern machinery instead of traditional ploughing methods and many youth are presently engage in agriculture willingly using these modern techniques.

Paddy production

The fertilizer subsidy introduced in 2005, to give a bag of 50kg fertilizer at a price of Rs 350 will be continued even in the future despite the huge increase in fertilizer prices in the world market, which now amounts to Rs 7,800 per 50kgs. The Government is incurring a huge loss under this method but it is confident that in the long term the country would immensely benefit by the country becoming self sufficient in rice. The subsidy has greatly helped to increase paddy production during the past five years, last year alone, the Government expenditure on this subsidy was Rs 55 billion.

Five hundred fifty seven district centres have established islandwide for the distribution of fertilizer and it is planned to extend this facility for cultivation of fruits and vegetables.

The writer is Director General, Media Centre for National Development

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Introduction of the Api Wavamu Rata Nagamu program greatly strengthened the agricultural sector and it helped Sri Lanka to subdue the adverse impact many countries suffered from the recent global food crisis and collapse of the economies of the world’s developed countries. This program encouraged farmers to increase food production, use organic fertilizer instead of expensive imported chemical fertilizer, cultivate abandoned paddy lands, cultivate and increase home gardens and also to cultivate vegetable and fruits and many varieties of food that were imported

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