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DateLine Sunday, 6 April 2008

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Task force to expedite agriculture development

A Presidential Task Force has been appointed to expedite the three-year Agriculture Development Project "Api Wawamu - Rata Nagamu", which commenced last September, said Minister of Agriculture Development and Agrarian Services Maithripala Sirisena.

The "Api Wawamu - Rata Nagamu" project targets to achieve self sufficiency in agricultural produce in all varieties including rice, onions, chilies, fruits and green gram within three years.

According to the Minister representatives from all agriculture related ministries, departments and leading private sector agricultural organisations have been appointed to the Presidential Task Force which will meet under the patronage of President Mahinda Rajapaksa shortly.

The Minister said to achieve self-sufficiency in rice by 2010 the national paddy production which is 3.5 million M.T. should be increased by 30 percent and virgin or neglected land of 55000 hectares should be cultivated. Vast areas of fertile land in the Eastern province which were neglected due to the conflict will be cultivated.

Renovation of small and medium irrigation projects and another 10 per cent of the targeted land will be cultivated under the Moragahakanda and Umaoya development scheme.

The productivity of paddy lands will be increased from 4.2 metric tons per hectare to 5.2 metric tons using the latest scientific methods adopted by India, China, Thailand and the Philippines. The main problem faced by farmers in the past was that they could not get a reasonable price. That has changed due to the far-sighted decisions taken by the government.

There is a big demand for local paddy, rice, onions and chilies. Sri Lanka imported 900,000 Mt of wheat flour from 1967 and it was reduced by 50 per cent last year due to the removal of the flour subsidy which increased the demand for rice and rice based products, he said.

Sri Lanka spent Rs. 700 million last year to import grapes, apples and other fruits. Under the "Api Wavamu-Rata Nagmu" project paddy cultivation and other agricultural items such as fruits, exports and milk production will be improved, he said.

All should work hard to achieve self-sufficiency, he said.

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