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Bathalagoda to boost the country's rice production

A government grant of Rupees 9 million for rice seed production along with funds for the purchase of lab equipment for the Bathalagoda Rice Research and Development Institute will help boost the country's rice production. As a result for the first times a thousand formers - mainly those cultivating 2-25 hectares are being selected under a small farms development project who will receive improved varieties and rice growing techniques to achieve this goal.

This programme is intended to wean people away from high consumption of wheat flower and also to maintain a three month buffer stock "other countries even have 6-8 months of such stock," he informed.

According to the RRDI's agriculturist K. M. Abeyratne the current percapita flour consumption is 35 kilos while rice is 98 kilos which he says does not augur well for Sri Lanka's rice production. The current 860,000 hectares under rice production yields 2.9 million metric tons annually - the annual requirement being three million metric tons.

"We are almost close to self sufficiency," he said attributing the two restricted seasonal cultivations and water scarcity particularly during the Maha Season as hurdles to self sufficiency. During Maha 560,000 hectares are cultivated while Yala brings under cultivation 310,000 hectares.

This small farm development project also includes high potential areas such as Anuradhapura, Ampara and Polonnaruwa and other major irrigation schemes, covering 260,000 hectares not to forget the 300,000 hectares of rain fed and minor irrigation schemes.

"Located in the island's varied climatic zones these rain fed small farms have constantly been neglected," said Abeyratne and continued,"we have not identified their constraints to increase productivity in these areas.



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