Written by Staff Writer
06 Apr, 2019 | 8:54 pm
Colombo (News 1st): Who should be held responsible for the transactions related to the import of heifers to the country which has resulted in the downfall of the livestock industry?
Shouldn’t steps be taken to prevent this from taking place?
It was in 2014 when News 1st made its first revelation regarding the import of 20,000 heifers to Sri Lanka under a government-backed project aimed to boost the dairy farmers in the country.
Confirming such revelations, these issues have now elevated, grabbing the attention of international media.
Recent articles published by Australian Broadcasting Corporation and the Australian website, Farm Weekly have confirmed all revelations that News 1st has continuously exposed throughout the years.
The Australian media reports, hundreds of heifers have died in a Federal Government-backed export deal with Sri Lanka, which local farmers say has left them bankrupt, and in some cases, suicidal.
The following footage shows the plight of the farmers who are suffering due to the negligence of local officers in charge of this project.
“We purchase 250 dairy heifers. Initially, we were happy and we fed the heifers well. The government agents said that the cows will produce more than 20 litres of milk per day. However, we have never obtained more than 4 litres of milk per cow a day. Some cows have only 2 tithes. On an average basis, we have not obtained more than 13 litres of milk. Cows are dying continuously. We have to sell our houses now.”
“Cows and calves are dying continuously. We are finding it hard to meet ends.”
“Many heifers are dying. They said the respective Australian company supplied the best heifers. But we have not benefited from this project.”
Under the project, an Australian Company named Wellard Rural Exports Pty Ltd was contracted to export 20,000 heifers to Sri Lanka between 2012 and 2019. The respective agreement was initiated in 2014.
Speaking regarding this National Organizer of the All Ceylon Farmers Federation Namal Karunaratne noted that the project was initiated after obtaining cabinet approval on June 25 2014. He went onto note that the agreement is with an Australian Company named Wellard Rural Exports Pty Ltd and the local agent is Foresight Engineering Private Limited which is connected to the Chairman of Access Group, Sumal Perera.
He added corruption and several irregularities were reported since the inception of the project. He noted that the Yahapalanya government could have rejected and withdrawn from this project, however, they continued with the project as the commissions that could be earned was high.
This project received cabinet approval from the present government, disregarding the recommendations of the Auditor General and the National Planning Department.
Accordingly, 5000 dairy heifers were imported in 2017 and 2018 while a foreign loan valued at US$ 73.9 million was obtained to finance the project. In addition, as per the agreement, an advance payment of Rs. 1.32 billion has already been paid, for the import of the remaining dairy heifers.
Namal Karunaratne noted that the secretary to the ministry of agriculture Renuka Ekanayaka, is the wife of Saman Ekanayaka, the secretary to the prime minister, therefore the secretary intervened in this project and misused public funds in an illegal and unethical manner in several inappropriate transactions during the past few years.
He noted even after having learned of the unfortunate situation of the 5000 heifers that had already been imported, and even when the government had not allocated any funds for the import of more heifers, the ministry proceeds to pay the Australian Company Wellard Rs. 1.32 billion to import the remaining heifers.
Karunaratne said these funds were sourced through a bank loan that was obtained from a bank in New Zealand named Rabobank. He noted that it is the government of Sri Lanka that must repay this loan and its been 10 months since this transaction was made, but not a single heifer has been imported to Sri Lanka as yet.
On one hand, he noted that Wellard company in Australia has invested these funds and is generating income, and on the other, the government of Sri Lanka continues to pay loan installments and interest.
Should we let the corrupt authorities and politicians import the remaining 15,000 heifers to the country through this program?
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