Lack of distribution network: No respite for farmers

By Skandha Gunasekara

Despite curfews being relaxed in most parts of the island, the farmers’ plight continues to worsen due to the lack of distribution networks and politicisation.

All Island Farmers Federation (AIFF) National Organiser Namal Karunaratne said that lifting the curfew has not made a difference.

“Farmers still have to throw away hordes of their crops because there are no buyers due to the lack of a proper distribution channel. Relaxing the curfew hasn’t helped,” he said.

He went on to say that those who do manage to sell their vegetables are cheated by politicians’ cronies posing as buyers.

He said he had seen a cucumber farmer selling a kilo of his produce for Rs. 10 to a lackey of a local provincial councillor.

“Henchman of local politicians buy the vegetables for dirt cheap prices and resell to the private companies at exorbitant rates. What is bought at Rs. 10 from the farmer is sold at Rs. 80 to consumers in Colombo,” Karunaratne stressed.

Last Sunday (19), Secretary to the Ministry of Agriculture Neil Bandara Hapuhinna said the Government was assisting the farmers through the Presidential Task Force set up in response to the Covid-19 outbreak.

“The task force through the armed forces was helping transport the vegetables for the farmers. They are also buying and selling crops from the farmers,” the Secretary to the Ministry said.

However, Presidential Task Force Head of Media Co-ordination Dr. Charitha Herath said that they had bought and sold vegetables only during the Sinhala and Tamil New Year season.

“We are not doing that anymore. That was only during the New Year period,” he noted.

He went on to say that the Dambulla and other economic centres were opened when the curfew was relaxed and that things would normalise.

“The farmers can sell their vegetables at the economic centres now that they are open again. Things should go back to normal soon,” he added.