Farmers threaten to halt ‘Maha’ cultivation

  • Demand guaranteed price over control price

BY Buddhika Samaraweera

Representatives of several farmers’ organisations have warned the Government that they would refrain from cultivating paddy in the upcoming Maha season unless a guaranteed price is introduced instead of a control price for paddy, thereby preparing a programme to purchase paddy from farmers at a reasonable price.

Addressing a media briefing yesterday (16), Polonnaruwa Vijayabapura Farmers’ Association Chairman Sarath Rajapaksa stated that farmers have decided not to sell paddy until the Government provides a fair price for paddy. He also added that the Government cannot dictate that the paddy grown by farmers must be sold.

“The Government can’t tell us not to keep our harvest at home. Therefore, we ask other farmers not to sell paddy until they get a fair price. It is our right and no one can take it away,” he added.

Meanwhile, Dimbulana (Division One) Farmers’ Association President Wasantha Senanayake, speaking at the same media briefing, claimed that farmers have to spend around Rs. 150,000 during the period ranging from when paddy is cultivated to when it is harvested. He also said that the control price set by the Government for paddy is not sufficient at all, given the said expenditure.

“It costs about Rs. 150,000 to cultivate paddy. A farmer who harvests about 4,000 kilogrammes of paddy earns only around Rs. 200,000 when they sell paddy at the current prices. It means that they get only about Rs. 50,000 in the end. So can someone live on Rs. 50,000 given the prices of other goods today?” he queried.

Against the backdrop of the Cabinet’s approval being granted to purchase a kilogramme (kg) of nadu paddy through the Paddy Marketing Board (PMB), which has so far been purchased for around Rs. 50, at a price of Rs. 55, several farmers’ organisations recently stated that the said price is not enough and that they hope to organise protests against the matter in the future.

The farmers further charged that with the Government setting a control price for rice, rice mill owners have now stopped purchasing paddy from farmers.

“In this situation, we should get at least Rs. 65 for a kg of nadu, Rs. 75 for samba, and Rs. 90 for keeri samba. We urge President Gotabaya Rajapaksa not to take decisions like this. Also, we will soon take to the streets in protest against this,” they added.

In the recent past, the Government has taken steps to impose fixed prices for rice on several occasions; however, the prices of rice have increased significantly and rice mill owners have also stopped supplying rice to the market, claiming that they have to run at a loss when purchasing paddy from the farmers at fixed prices.

However, when inquired about this, Agriculture Ministry Secretary Prof. Udith K. Jayasinghe-Mudalige told The Morning that the Government has taken steps to provide the most reasonable prices for paddy in the current situation. “Farmers’ views were also taken into account in introducing these prices. Most of the farmers agree to this. We know that farmers would definitely like a higher price, but we also need to protect the consumer,” he said.