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No Maha cultivation if Yala doesn’t produce enough seed paddy

BY Buddhika Samaraweera

Experts in the field of agriculture have pointed out that if the country is unable to produce sufficient seed paddy during the coming Yala cultivating season, it will not be possible to cultivate paddy, even if the farmers receive a certain amount of chemical fertilisers in the next Maha season.

Speaking at a media briefing organised by the Academics’ Movement to Safeguard Agriculture in Sri Lanka (AMSASL) yesterday (27), Prof. Aruna Kumara of the Ruhuna University said: “Paddy cultivation has failed in both the last Maha and Yala seasons, and as a result, the price of all rice varieties that are mostly used in Sri Lanka has gone up by more than Rs. 200. We also have to keep in mind that we have to buy rice at these prices, even when rice is being imported.”

He added that in the current situation, the Government and other relevant authorities should pay special attention to the production of seed paddy required for the coming seasons. Otherwise, he said, paddy cultivation would fail in 2023, just as it happened in 2022, which would cause a food crisis.

“If seed paddy cannot be produced in the Yala season, it will not be possible to cultivate paddy even if we get some amount of chemical fertilisers in the Maha season. However, if the Government intervenes and provides the farmers who produce seed paddy with the necessary facilities to continue their production, they will be able to produce a significant amount of seed paddy. Through that, there would be satisfactory rice production by April 2023,” Prof. Kumara further said.

Meanwhile, speaking at the same media briefing, Senior Prof. Buddhi Marambe said that the paddy harvest in the country has dropped by as much as 45% during the last Maha season. He charged that the decision by President Gotabaya Rajapaksa and the Government to ban the import of chemical fertilisers without any scientific basis has caused a major threat to food security, which is a key component of national security.

A proposal to ban the use and importation of chemical fertilisers and agrochemicals was submitted to the Cabinet of Ministers by President Rajapaksa in April 2021, and the same was granted approval. However, the Government decided to revoke the said ban and to thereby allow the private sector to import such, with effect from 24 November 2021. 

Following the Government’s decision to ban the importation of chemical fertilisers and certain agrochemicals, farmers in several areas were seen charging that there was a serious shortage of fertilisers for their cultivations. In addition, several protests were organised by farmers in the recent past, demanding that their crop damages, particularly those caused to paddy fields, due to the fertiliser issue, be compensated.