Dairy farmers oppose move to import dairy cows

Dairy and livestock farmers urged the Government to suspend the Cabinet-approved project to import heifers, as almost all the heifers and their offspring brought down to Sri Lanka from Australia under the previous project have died, causing a massive loss to the owners.

The Cabinet of Ministers, last week, approved a proposal to import 2,500 dairy heifers to strengthen the local dairy industry, Co-Cabinet Spokesman Dr. Ramesh Pathirana said.

“The Government hopes to increase the amount of daily milk production by 100,000 litres as a result of this investment,” the Minister added.

Speaking to The Morning, All Island Farmers Federation (AIFF) National Organiser Namal Karunaratne said the dairy farming sector has plunged into severe crisis due to apathy on part of the Government with regard to the importation of diseased heifers from Australia.

He alleged that the majority of heifers imported from Australia were suffering from bovine viral diarrhoea (BVD).

“This is a total mess, and the Government should stop bringing down more heifers. This is an absolute waste of money,” he said, adding that the project cost is about $ 73 million.

Five thousand heifers had already been brought down by the Government.
“If they really want to import cows, they could bring them down from India or Pakistan,” he added. Karunaratne stressed that the heifers from Australia were not suited for the hot climate of Sri Lanka.

The venture was initiated in 2014 by then Economic Development Minister Basil Rajapaksa. Its aim was for Sri Lanka to achieve self-sufficiency in milk production by 2020. The agreement for $ 73 million was signed with Wellard Rural Exports (Pty.) Ltd. of Australia to import 20,000 heifers from Australia, under the previous Government in 2014.

The project was then revived by Minister P. Harrison and continued by Minister Vijith Vijayamuni Soysa.

The Government brought down 2,000 heifers from New Zealand on 12 May 2017 following Cabinet approval obtained on 24 March 2017; again in December 2017, 3,000 heifers were imported from Australia. The project was temporarily suspended by the previous Government due to vehement opposition by the farmers, Karunaratne stressed.

He also urged the Government to pay compensation to farmers who incurred losses as a result of the previous project.
By Maheesha Mudugamuwa