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.
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
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
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 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.
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
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
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
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