News

Government to analyse harvest before importing rice

 

  • Decline in Maha harvest predicted by farmers
  • SJB threatens to surround P’ment with farmers

 

BY Pamodi Waravita

Against the backdrop of farmers predicting a major decline in the Maha harvest due to the 100% organic agriculture policy the Government sought to implement earlier this year, the Trade Ministry and the Co-operative Services, Marketing Development, and Consumer Protection State Ministry will analyse the Maha season harvest in order to determine if increased imports of essential goods, especially rice, are needed.

“We will see how the Maha harvest goes and prepare for increased imports in February 2022 accordingly,” Co-operative Services, Marketing Development, and Consumer Protection State Ministry Secretary K.D.S. Ruwanchandra told The Morning yesterday (9).

Similarly, Trade Ministry Secretary Bhadranie Jayawardhana told The Morning that it is currently working closely with the Imports and Exports Control Department and the Agriculture Ministry in order to ensure that consumers will not face a food shortage or crisis once the Maha season ends.

“Since last month, we have already started keeping a security stock of rice and sugar. We hope to hold a stock of 100,000 metric tonnes (MT) of rice, and we are in discussions with India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Myanmar to ensure adequate stocks,” said Jayawardhana.

Meanwhile, speaking at a press conference held yesterday, Samagi Jana Balawegeya (SJB) Parliamentarian Nalin Bandara Jayamaha warned that if the ongoing fertiliser issue is not resolved by 26 November, they will hold a protest outside the Parliament with farmers. “The Government and President Gotabaya Rajapaksa have still not woken up from their dream worlds. The Agriculture Minister Mahindananda Aluthgamage is a stooge who may even have to resign soon due to this crisis. On 26 November, the Parliament is due to have the budget debate on agriculture. If the fertiliser crisis is not resolved by then, we will surround the Parliament with farmers and their equipment in order to send a message to the Government. The Government is still taking this issue very lightly. We are demanding that the Government immediately give the fertiliser needed for the Maha cultivation,” said Jayamaha.

A proposal to ban the use and importation of chemical fertilisers and agrochemicals, such as pesticides and herbicides/weedicides, was submitted to the Cabinet of Ministers by President Rajapaksa and the same was granted approval, following which the relevant gazette notification was issued in May 2021. However, the Finance Ministry, through the gazette notification number 2238/45 of 31 July 2021, has relaxed regulations on the import of chelated (a type of bonding of ions and molecules to metal ions) minerals and micronutrients for the purpose of producing fertiliser.

Following this, the Agriculture Ministry stated that it hopes to import a total of 3.1 million litres of nano nitrogen liquid fertiliser to supply the 1.4 million hectares (ha) of paddy, corn, and vegetable farmland in the country. In September 2021, the Government also approved for the tea industry to import nitrogen-based fertiliser.

The Government has assured farmers that adequate compensation will be provided if farmers face a loss of harvest and thus, income, due to this policy. However, farmers, professionals from a number of industries, and economists fear a looming food security crisis due to predicted losses of harvest.