News

Maha cultivation season: Government in damage control mode?

  • Key farming unions reach a compromise with Govt. on organic fertiliser
  • Farming groups fear drop in crop yield and loss of income
  • Blame Govt. for pushing paddy sector towards ruin

By Yoshitha Perera

The nitrogen extracts needed for paddy cultivation during the Maha season will be imported from India by the end of October, Minister of Agriculture Mahindananda Aluthgamage told The Sunday Morning. This comes amidst strong protest by farmers about the Government’s sudden policy change on fertiliser, with many groups warning of low crop yield and possible loss of livelihoods.

Aluthgamage told The Sunday Morning that the Ministry of Agriculture was handling the tender procedures required to import nitrogen extracts from India.

“We imported 30,000 metric tonnes (MT) of potassium chloride from Lithuania. The only matter (that needs to be addressed) is the shortage of nitrogen extracts, but farmers will need it at the end of this month. We have taken measures to import it from India,” he said.

Responding to a query, the Minister said that the total extent of land committed for paddy cultivation was estimated at around 800,000 hectares and the country could expect an increase in the harvest in this year’s Maha season as well.

According to Department of Census and Statistics (DCS) data, the total paddy harvest during last year’s Maha season was 3,061,394 MT.

Minister Aluthgamage said the total paddy requirement for consumption was 2.3 million MT, and with last year’s paddy harvest in the Maha season, the country had nearly one million MT of rice to last till February next year.

He further said that, in a meeting with the Jathika Govi Sanvidhana Bala Mandalaya last week, the Ministry had reached a consensus with the farmers on the use of organic fertiliser.

“Farmers attached to the Jathika Govi Sanvidhana Bala Mandalaya had a meeting with us at the Ministry last Thursday (14) and they finally came to a settlement on using organic fertiliser based on three conditions.

“The three conditions are, the Government has to provide fertiliser on time, the Government has to take responsibility for the (quality of the) fertiliser, and if there is any financial loss, the Government would have to bear the cost,” the Minister said.

Meanwhile, speaking to The Sunday Morning, All Island Farmers’ Federation (AIFF) National Organiser Namal Karunaratne said that the damage was already done. He claimed there was a possibility of Sri Lanka recording the lowest paddy harvest in its history during the Maha season this year.

“The farmers had already decided not to cultivate the entire land extent during the Maha season because they had not received sufficient fertiliser,” he claimed.

“This Government came to power stating that they would cultivate barren paddy fields. But now, even the existing, good paddy fields have become barren,” he said.