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Need for new methods

Agriculture plays a pivotal role in the economic development. Encouraging youth to take to agriculture, introducing new produce purchasing system and developing public-private partnership will be the key areas in the agriculture development agenda, Agriculture Minister Mahinda Yapa Abeywardane said. Following are the excerpts of the interview:

Q: As the Agriculture Minister you have a huge responsibility to develop the agriculture sector. what do you feel about it?


Agriculture Minister Mahinda Yapa Abeywardane

A: Though I am the minister I canít do this task alone. The ministry staff and other institutions attached to the Ministry should extend their fullest support. All Sri Lankans should join us to develop this sector.

Q: Do you hope to introduce a special program to develop this sector?

A: What I want to say is cultivate more.

It is not important to introduce new things.

The President has encouraged people through the Api Wawamu Rata Nagamu movement. Because of this massive cultivation program most people try to get the maximum use of their homegardens. They grow fruits and vegetables for domestic consumption. This shows the people have accepted the policy. So I will give my fullest support to continue it.

Q: What are the problems in the agriculture sector?

A: Our farmers have to face a lot of difficulties as they couldnít earn much profit. Post-harvesting problems, selling problems, lack of quality seeds are some of the identified problems.

Q: What are your plans to do to solve these?

A: We have decided to combine all Agrarian Services Centres through a computer network and publish every farmerís details such as the name, Agrarian Services Division, the crops they cultivate in a special web site. It will be easy for salesmen to find out in which area they find the best produce. This will be a solution for the post-harvest problem. Sometimes farmers have to transport their produce to far away places to sell them.

Under this new system they wonít have to do that as our salesmen will come to their doorstep to collect the harvest.

The other problem is the high production cost. The labour cost is high. The Government provides a fertilizer subsidy to farmers. It is a great relief for them. It will continue. We will take steps to increase high quality seed production.

Only 17 percent of high quality seed paddy is produced in the country. The ministry plans to increase it to 30 percent within three years. Now we only can get 4.3 metric tons of paddy harvest from a hectare and within next three years we hope to increase it to five mt of paddy per hectare after increasing the local seed production. We will also provide technology to the private sector to produce high quality seeds. Basic seeds will be given by the Ministry. Seed production villages will be set up islandwide. Seed farms, Agriculture Training Centres and Agriculture Research Stations will look after those villages.

Q: What are the strategies that your ministry has adopted to encourage youth to take to agriculture?

A: For any movement the youth is the valuable segment.

There is a trend of youth taking to this field. They like to work with modern technology. Earlier young people thought there was low social status associated with farmer. Fortunately now the situation is improving. It is a good sign for the future of agriculture.

Q: Donít you have a policy to get the private sector to support the development of the agriculture sector?

A: Why not? Public-private partnership is important to develop any field. We hope to introduce all our technologies to them and encourage them to carry out their work successfully. We will provide lands to private companies that do not have adequate land to cultivate. We will provide facilities to export our products. From our computer network the private sector can get farmersí details.

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