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Monday, 19 November 2012

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‘Move to import soya bean - jolt to local farmers’

Soya bean farmers are up in arms against a move to import soya bean from USA and Canada when the country is self sufficient.

Sri Lanka had been importing soya bean for a long period mainly to manufacture ‘ Thriposha’ a health food for infants and pregnant mothers by the Ministry of Health, spending millions of dollars. Companies and farmer association since 2000 encouraged farmers to grow soya bean in Sri Lanka and in 2005 a Cabinet paper was submitted to stop imports.

Due to this move Sri Lanka moved to be self sufficient in soya bean and for the first time this year soya bean was exported to Indonesia and Malaysia bringing valuable foreign exchange to the country, and helping to narrow the import export gap.

Currently over 15,000 farmers are engaged in the sector and are supplying the entire local requirement to both the Health Ministry and the private sector.

These farmers were given a certified price as well and their annual earning per acre per year were around Rs 90,000. However in a surprise move the Health Ministry which account to nearly 70 % of the local production has decided to import soya bean at a 40 % higher price from USA and Canada.

This will cripple the local industry and would break the self sufficient cycle and also deprive nearly US 250 million foreign exchange to the country. In addition it would also force 15,000 farmer families to stop cultivation and would be forced to move out of soya bean production.

It is estimated that if Sri Lanka imports soya bean it wold cost the country over US $ 350 million annually and farmers are asking as to why they cannot purchase crop from them.

If soya bean is imported soya bean growers would lose faith and discontinue this crop which has an export value of US $ 350 million.

When contacted an official from the Ministry of Health said that there are discussions to import soya bean. “But we have also received representations from Sri Lankan Farmers' Associations and we are considering their recommendations.”

Meanwhile this controversy has also halted production of the Thriposha factory in Ja Ela and if the problem persists soon there would be a scarcity of Thriposha in the local market.

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