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Are the decisions made by officials driving Sri Lanka towards a rice crisis?

Are the decisions made by officials driving Sri Lanka towards a rice crisis?

Are the decisions made by officials driving Sri Lanka towards a rice crisis?

Written by Lahiru Fernando

16 Dec, 2016 | 8:42 pm

The country is heading towards an inevitable crisis centering rice. – that is a warning which has come from the Sri Lankan farmers.

BUT WHY?

Arid weather and issues surrounding fertilizer have led to a situation where the expected harvest for the Maha Season cannot be reaped. There is a risk that the harvest of this year’s Maha season would be half of what was reaped last year.

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“… We cultivated expecting a rainfall …”

“… Traders come here and take the paddy for a lesser price. We have no way to add fertilizer because the Government is yet to issue the funds …”

– Farmers

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According to Vavuniya District Secretary Rohana Pushpakumara, there is sufficient water for only 4,000 hectares of paddy land -while 9,000 hectares have been cultivated.

“If sufficient rainfall is not received, the remaining farmlands will be destroyed…” he added.

Predictions

Lalith Chandrapala (Director General – Department of Meteorology) says that Sri Lanka receives less rainfall in January and February. According to the Director General, even if there is rainfall there is no solution to the scarcity of water.

In areas like Polonnaruwa , Anuradhapura and Hambantota where a better harvest is expected, cultivation during the Maha season have been limited.

Of the 190,000 acres of paddy land in the Kurunegala District, a mere 19,000 acres have been cultivated.

In complete contrast though, in the Ampara District over 90% of the 800,000 acres of Paddy Lands have been cultivated this time around.

Namal Karunaratne (National organizer – All Ceylon Peasants Federation): “… Were the farmers provided fertilizer on time in order to yield a successful harvest? Fertilizer is required within 45 days. Under this situation, the harvest will be significantly lower.”

Given the situation, what did the Minister of Rural Economic Affairs have to say?

Minister P. Harrison says, the Paddy Marketing Board has made a decision to release paddy stocks. He also added that there will be positive news for the consumers in the near future and that the price of rice will reduce.

The Minister also said: “… LCs have been given to the private sector to import Nadu rice. —Since rice will be imported from neighboring countries like India, the process will not take long. Come the festive season, the prices will reduce…”

According to what Namal Karunaratne says however, yes -when rice is imported and stored, the price will drop- but at the cost of intermediaries and large mills purchasing the local farmers’ paddy for a less price. Which will create a shortage of rice and consumers extorted.

He said:

“The Government must be ashamed that when three private mills possess 1 million tonnes of paddy, the Government only has 200,000 metric tonnes. They decide on everything based on their cut …”