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President tells Diploma Certificate awarding ceremony:

Govt aims to develop agriculture

President Mahinda Rajapaksa yesterday stressed that developing agriculture was one of the key components in the Government's future development thrust.

He said that the Government was looking forward to see farmers as entrepreneurs. The Government will make all efforts to equip farmers with modern agro-technological know-how and other necessities to make farming a professional and profit-making business venture to support this endeavour, he added.

The President noted that the Government's aim was to achieve self-sufficiency in agricultural products soon.

He was speaking while handing diploma certificates to 50 farmers who successfully completed the on line Agro Technology Diploma for Farmers at the Magampura Agro-Technology and Rural Industries Centre at Weligawatta, Hambantota.

A total of 50 farmers who successfully completed the course coordinated by the Colombo University were awarded diploma certificates.

The President addressing the gathering after presenting certificates said there was an era in the past where rulers had undermined the importance of agriculture.

"They thought that they could import all agri-based needs for a lesser cost, than producing them here. Thus they did not provide money for the development of the industry. However the advent of a new ideology with the introduction of Mahinda Chintana changed the trend. We gave pride of place to agriculture. Today we have implemented at least one major irrigation project in every district," he said.

President Rajapaksa also reminded the gathering that the Government while conducting a humanitarian mission to liberate the country from the clutches of terrorism had also laid the foundation for a future development thrust.

All mega development projects being implemented would provide direct and indirect benefits to farmers as well. Farmers would benefit with new markets emerging to sell their produce at a competitive price, he added.

He said that to encourage farmers, the Government had taken steps to introduce a pension scheme and also had exempted their earnings from tax.

He noted that institutions such as the Agro-Technology centre in Hambantota was helping to provide the much needed modern technical inputs and the professional status the industry richly deserved.

He said that the Government would strive to provide all needs of farmers and the agricultural industry to make the sector one of the key components in the country's quest to achieve prosperity.

Ministers Bandula Gunawardena and Mahinda Amaraweera and Colombo University Vice Chancellor Prof Kshanika Hirimburegama also participated.

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