NLDB takes lead role:
Lanka to be self-sufficient in milk soon
Minister of Economic Development Basil Rajapaksa visiting a
private agricultural farm in Dambulla.
Sri Lanka spends over a staggering Rs. two billion annually to import
milk when it has the capacity to be self sufficient in the commodity.
The country has green fields, technical know how, investors and
companies in the local and private sector to help achieve this goal.
What the country needs is to fine-tune operations so that milk
production could increase.
While the government played a secondary role and the private sector
made great inroads in milk production, this pattern seems to be
Over a decade ago government farms were sold to the private sector
making the dairy industry lose its competitiveness..
It is sad to note that the very farms that were condemned and
privatised, have successfully been turned around by companies such as
CIC, Nestle and Kotmale.
However, in fairness to the private sector it should be mentioned
that, they not only made loss making entities profitable but also
provided employment for several thousands of families and found them a
permanent source of income.
The out grower concept introduced by these private companies where
cattle were provided for farmers to nurse and provide milk back to the
owners, were very successful. This was a win win situation for both
parties with the farmer receiving a high earning self employment avenue,
without making an investment.
Cows grazing on green grass upcountry
Director General NLDB Lakshman Hulugalle plants a sapling
|NLDB Director General, at
a NLDB dairy farm
With the Mahinda Chinthana, giving high priority to dairy, the
government sector woke up with the National Livestock Development Board
playing a lead role taking Sri Lanka towards becoming self sufficient in
"Our aim is to make Sri Lanka self sufficient in fresh milk and we
have got a very good opportunity with the ending of the war", said
Director General, National Livestock Development Board (NLDB) Lakshman
He said that with the ending of the war against terrorism and the
humanitarian operation the country was able to open out the North East
for development. Fertile land is being used once again for various
projects. The country also got more manpower and most importantly for
the dairy industry it was gifted with several thousand cows that were
left to idle.
Hulugalle who is also the government media spokesman said that the
NLDB is now in the process of rounding up these cows and putting them in
the NLDB farm in Welikanda. "We would give them proper nourishment and
make them productive", he said.
He emphasised that they would not sell or slaughter in their farms
even if the cows are redundant and become a white elephant to the NLDB.
He said that it was sad to note that over 3,000 cattle perished in
the recent North East floods.
One of the reasons for Sri Lanka to lag behind from being self
sufficient in fresh milk production is that the cow's full potential is
not being reaped. "In Sri Lanka a cow produces only around three to four
litres of milk per day. In countries like Australia and New Zealand it
is around 26 litres per day. With new technology Israel milks around 40
litres per day from each cow.
"We have done studies and shared knowledge with these nations and
have found that our cows are being neglected and are made to find food
on their own. The cows should be fed, given vitamins and should be
looked after well."
A mobile fresh milk van
A high yielding fruit tree at a farm.
He said that the NLDB through research has found new methods to
increase milk production up to eight litres per day. "This would help to
double milk production in Sri Lanka and would help to reduce the import
of powdered milk to some extent saving millions of rupees to the
He said that there is a new trend for fresh milk consumption and this
is very encouraging.
And it was to meet this trend that the NLDB decided to launch a tetra
pack, the cheapest in the market. "It is in very high demand."
There was a census on Sri Lankan cows carried out in 2001 which said
that there were around one million cattle in the country and when this
study was done again in 2009, it was found that the number stood the
same. "This shows that the cattle population has not increased
significantly. This is why we decided to import 2,000 cattle from
Australia, New Zealand and even Pakistan."
He said that the recent Cabinet decision that halts the slaughtering
of cows too would help to increase the cattle population in Sri Lanka
and research is going on to introduce more productive breeding methods.
Hulugalle said that when he took over the NLDB, it was badly managed
and neglected. "I also managed to erase a Rs. 98 million financial
obligation. NLDB, thanks to prudent management and dedication of workers
is no longer a financial burden to government coffers. However, he
admitted that there are two farms in the red and promised to turn them
around by the end of the year.
"We converted the NLDB sales outlet in Narahenpita from an almost
ghost building to a very up market sales outlet bringing in very high
Our sales have increased by over 30 percent and it is one of the best
revenue generating centres for the NLDB. I am proud to state that we
would be able to recover this investment in less than two years
Hulugalle said that the NLDB has also decided to join the Divi Neguma
agricultural program of the government and has decided to allocate 10
acres of land from each of their 32 farms to plant fruit and vegetables.
The NLDB owns 38,000 acres in various parts of the country. "The
program would also help to swell our bottom line."
He said that the Divi Neguma program is an unique concept mooted by
the Minister of Economic Affairs, Basil Rajapaksa which would once again
reactivate the home garden concept and help to check vegetable prices.
"Our first priority would be to provide fruit and vegetables to
farmers at a very concessionary rate in a bid to lower their cost of
living. The excess would be sold at our outlets Rs. 20 cheaper than the
"With fruits and vegetables being marketed at our outlets at a lower
price it would help bring down the price of fruit and vegetables
drastically. We are not looking at earning huge profit margins."
He said that plans are also under way to open several other NLDB
centres in Sri Lanka.
Hulugalle also said that in the past few years, NLDB resources were
left to idle and its potential unutilised.
"We have now decided to introduce agricultural tourism and are in the
process of refurbishing our bungalows in a bid to market them to local
and foreign tourists.
"My aim is to make these bungalows self sufficient with our farm
produce. The visitors would also get an opportunity to witness how
things are being done on our farms."
With milk production increased the dairy farmer would be able to gain
a steady income and most importantly it would help to produce a
healthier nation, taking the country closer towards being the Wonder of