Sunday Observer Online


Sunday, 31 July 2011





Marriage Proposals
Government Gazette

Annual National Farmers’ Week in Vavuniya:

Focus on Northern farmers

Agriculture Minister, Mahinda Yapa Abeywardena

The paddy production in 2010 was 2.92 MT which exceeded the country’s annual requirement. The production of essential food items has sharply increased during the past few years due to the agriculture-friendly policies of the present government, said Agriculture Ministry Secretary K.E. Karunatileke. In an interview with Sunday Observer on the “6th National Farmers Week” to be held in Vavuniya from August 1 to 5.

Excerpts of the interview:

Q: Can you explain the reason to select Vavuniya as the venue for this year’s event?

Agriculture Ministry
Secretary K.E. Karunatileke

A: Due to the LTTE terrorism the Northern farmers lost the opportunity of using modern technology for cultivation The farmers in other parts of the country however enjoyed it during the past three decades. The exhibition will give them an opportunity to tryout new techniques and an opportunity to purchase them on an easy payment schemes. Exhibition, discussions and meetings organised under the farmers week will give them the opportunity to familiarise with the latest developments in the agricultural sector. The farmers could have access to new methods of seed production and organic farming which increase their income and production.

Q: Will the private sector participate in the Exhibition?

A: This will be an annual event chiefly for the public and private sector organisations in the agriculture sector including research centres and educational institutions. Over 99 corporate sector institutions will have their stalls. Each and every farmer should visit the exhibition as it is held to acknowledge the Northern farmer’s contribution to the national GDP.

Paddy field

Q: The agriculture sector is reported to have achieved remarkable progress during the past few years. Could you elaborate?

A: The Census and Statistics Department’s reports Bear testimony to the success in the agriculture sector. In 2010-1,062,117 ha were brought under paddy cultivation and its harvest amounted to 2.92 million tonnes of rice as against 937,176 ha and MT 2.18 in 2005.

Agriculture Production

Other food crops such as maize, green gram, blackgreen, onion have registered similar progress.

Q: Were there any challenges faced by your ministry?

A: Agriculture field is unstable since natural disasters such as flood and drought destroy the harvest. Therefore the Ministry has given priority for research and improvement of productivity.

Vegetable cultivation

Further researches have been conducted at the Bathalagoda. Paddy Research institute to innovate on short-term paddy cultivations. They have successfully introduced a new variety of short-term paddy - Bg 250 which can be harvested within a period of two and half months. Innovation on rice-based products and improvement of productivity are other important features. Steps to minimize the post harvest damage have also been taken with further research being done.

Q: Rs. 700 million had been allocated to improve seed Farms by the last budget. What is the progress?

A: Quality seeds are very important to improve the harvest.

All Government seed farms have been modernized. Paranthan and Murukkan seed farms have been rehabilitated after decades of LTTE terrorism. The aim of the government is to make the country self-sufficient in rice and other subsidiary crops and fruits.

Q: High breed seeds and plants are imported for productive cultivation. How do you hope to promote such cultivations?

A: The “seed Villages” program launched by the ministry has been successful. Villagers in Dambulla and Matale had been selected to make seeds and planting materials for potatoes, big onions and vegetables. Training and assistance were also provided to these villages by the ministry.

Q: There is a worldwide threat of food shortage. Even today when people in some parts of the world are dying of starvation, Sri Lanka is fortunate that it has not faced such tragedies. Your comment?

A: “Api Vavamu - Rata Nagamu” food cultivation program which was launched in 2007 - has produced beneficial results. People were motivated to engage in cultivation. The neglected paddy fields were brought under cultivation a fresh and given new life.

“Divi Naguma” Economic Development Program launched by Economic Development Minister Basil Rajapaksa has set up one million home gardens which has its impact on the fruit and vegetable cultivations.

The Agriculture component of the “Divi Naguma” program is implemented by the Agriculture Ministry.

Present low price of the vegetables and fruits are due to be launched at the “Divi Naguma” program.

Q: Sri Lanka spends a sizeable foreign exchange to import fruits such as apples, grapes and oranges. What are your comments?

A: Cultivation of banana, papaw, local oranges, guava and other varieties of local fruits were encouraged by “Api Vavamu - Rata Nagamu” and “Divi Naguma” programs. They are now available at reasonable prices in the local market. People should be motivated to consume local items than the imported items.

Apples are chemically treated before exporting and it remains in containers for a long period before reaching the local market. The bitter truth is that there is no nutritious value in those fruits.

Q: One of the major inputs for the increase of paddy production is the fertilizer subsidy. Could you comment on the government’s plans for providing fertilizer on subsidised prices to the farmers?

A: Rs.30,000 million was spent for the paddy fertilizer subsidy last year. The fertilizer subsidy provides a big relief to paddy farmers. The Government extended the fertilizer subsidy to all crops recently. Now the fertilizer subsidy costs the State coffers more than Rs.5,000 billion a year. A 50 kg bag of fertilizer for paddy is Rs.350 while the price of a 50 kg bag of other fertilizer is Rs.1,100 and Rs.1,200.

The Government wants people to use this facility properly without wasting.

Q: What is the progress achieved by the compost fertilizer project of the government?

A: Compost fertilizer is becoming popular among farmers very often. Compost fertilizer suppliers cannot meet the demand of potato cultivators. The compost fertilizer centre at Pannala provides training and conducts practical programs for farmers. Agriculture ministry aims to reduce chemical fertilizer import by 25 percent within three years.


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