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SL now self sufficient in rice – Mahinda

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In a significant milestone for Sri Lanka’s agricultural sector, Minister of Agriculture and Plantation Industries Mahinda Amaraweera has announced that the country is now self-sufficient in rice production. This means that Sri Lanka is not expected to import any rice in 2024, a remarkable achievement that promises greater food security and economic independence.

This achievement is the result of years of dedicated efforts by farmers and government initiatives to boost domestic rice production. It not only bodes well for the nation’s food security but also represents a critical step towards reducing reliance on foreign imports and strengthening the agricultural sector.

The Minister of Agriculture and Plantation Industry, Mr. Mahinda Amaraweera mentioned this while joining a press briefing held at the Presidential Media Centre (PMC) on the theme ‘Collective Path to a Stable Country’ today (29).

Minister Amaraweera announced a renewed focus on supporting Sri Lanka’s agricultural and plantation sectors in 2023. His ministry implemented targeted programs aimed at boosting both industries.

One key initiative was a substantial financial investment in fertilizer subsidies. During the Yala and Maha seasons, Rs. 22 billion were allocated to ensure access and affordability for farmers. Additionally, the government committed Rs. 13 billion to directly purchase paddy from farmers, providing valuable income and market stability.

This dedication paid off. Unlike 2022, when 08 metric tons of rice was imported, Sri Lanka achieved self-sufficiency in 2023. The people of the country consumed rice grown entirely by Sri Lankan farmers throughout the year. This remarkable achievement, against the backdrop of economic challenges, underscores the resilience and success of the government’s agricultural development efforts.

Minister Amaraweera highlighted the significant investments made in 2023 to revitalize Sri Lanka’s agricultural and plantation sectors. The success of these programs, particularly in achieving rice self-sufficiency, demonstrates the importance of targeted support for farmers and the potential for further growth in these vital industries.

Echoing the devastation of the previous year, paddy cultivation once again fell victim to both drought and torrential downpours. A staggering 65,000 acres succumbed to the parched earth, while another 100,000 acres drowned under relentless floods. Recognizing the farmers’ plight, the government allocated Rs. One billion to compensate for drought-related losses, with 700 million already distributed. However, the fate of flood-damaged farmers remains uncertain, casting a shadow over their livelihoods and raising concerns about the future of this vital crop.The recent surge in vegetable prices has been a major concern for Sri Lankans. This increase was primarily driven by the destruction of large-scale vegetable crops due to heavy rains. Farmers faced the unfortunate situation of replanting their seeds multiple times, only to see them washed away by the downpours.

However, there is a glimmer of hope. By providing farmers with “net houses,” the government has enabled them to cultivate vegetables in a more protected environment, ensuring some level of supply to the market. This initiative, while not a complete solution, has certainly helped mitigate the impact of the heavy rains.

Looking ahead, the next two months offer some promise of relief. With the rainy season expected to subside, vegetable prices are anticipated to return to normal levels. This will undoubtedly bring much-needed respite to both consumers and farmers.

Meanwhile, the government has set its sights on boosting national food security through targeted crop production. In 2024, four key crops – paddy, maize, potato, and chilli – have been prioritized to meet specific national goals. This focus on these crops does not, however, signify neglect of other crops.

One interesting development is the renewed focus on red onion cultivation. The popularity of this variety had waned in recent years, partly due to the rise of B onions. To address this, the government is implementing initiatives to promote red onion production in specific regions such as Monaragala Thelulla, Jaffna, and Kurunegala Moragollagama and Niandagama. This renewed focus on red onions aims to diversify Sri Lanka’s agricultural landscape and ensure a more balanced supply of essential vegetables.

The Ministry of Agriculture and Plantation Industries has embarked on a series of crucial initiatives this year, aiming to bolster the quality and yield of the country’s key plantation crops – tea, rubber, and coconut. These efforts mark a significant departure from past approaches and hold immense promise for the future of Sri Lanka’s plantation sector.

Spearheading these endeavours is the B60 policy, implemented on 01st of January 2024. This targeted initiative focuses on enhancing the quality of tea leaves, a vital aspect of ensuring Sri Lanka’s tea maintains its global reputation for excellence.

Furthermore, the Ministry has launched a program to provide subsidized fertilizers to tea, rubber, and coconut plantations. This program leverages the expertise of Sri Lanka’s two government-owned fertilizer companies, the Commercial Fertilizer Company and Lanka Fertilizer Company. Notably, a special subsidized fertilizer blend specifically formulated for tea cultivation was also introduced today, marking a dedication to tailoring solutions to the unique needs of each crop.

Finally, recognizing the critical role of fertilizer in maximizing tea yields, the Ministry has taken decisive steps to ensure domestic production of all tea fertilizers. This move empowers Sri Lanka to control the quality and availability of these essential inputs, paving the way for greater stability and growth in the tea cultivation sector.

In an effort to revitalize Sri Lanka’s tea industry, the government is making premium tea fertilizer more accessible to growers. Both the Colombo Commercial Fertilizer Company and the Ceylon Fertilizer Company, owned by the government, are producing high-quality fertilizers specifically for tea cultivation. To support growers, these fertilizers are being offered at a significantly reduced price – nearly 50% less than the market price, or at least Rs. 2000 less than the price with VAT.

This price reduction applies to both T-200 and T-750 fertilizers, available for Rs. 5500 per bundle, and U-709 and U-834 fertilizers, priced at Rs. 7735 per bundle. This initiative goes beyond just making fertilizer more affordable. The government is also actively promoting new cultivation technologies alongside proper fertilizer application.

One such technology is the high-density cultivation system. With 59 successful projects already implemented, this approach has proven demonstrably effective, yielding an impressive 1350 kg of tea leaves per acre per month. The government remains committed to supporting tea growers, allocating Rs. 1000 million this year to further bolster the high-density cultivation initiative. Through these combined efforts, Sri Lanka’s tea industry is poised for renewed growth and success.

A significant step towards boosting Sri Lanka’s tea production was taken today with the signing of a tripartite agreement. The Sri Lanka Tea Board and Small Tea Estate Development Authority joined hands with two state-owned fertilizer companies to provide subsidized tea fertilizer. This initiative is expected to be a major boon for tea growers, lowering their input costs and facilitating increased yields.

Credit for this crucial program goes to the visionary leadership of President Ranil Wickremesinghe. The strategic merger of the Ministry of Plantation Industries with the Ministry of Agriculture in 2023 paved the way for this collaborative effort, demonstrating the power of unified action in driving national progress. This agreement marks a promising chapter in Sri Lanka’s journey to enhance its tea cultivation and secure a stronger position in the global market.

(President’s Media Unit)

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Draft constitution for Sri Lanka cricket board presented to president

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The draft constitution for the Sri Lanka Cricket Board, prepared by the Judge Chitrasiri Committee, was presented to President Ranil Wickremesinghe at the Presidential Secretariat today (15). 

The draft was handed over by Committee Chairman, retired Supreme Court Judge K.T. Chitrasiri, alongside other committee members.

The initiative to address challenges faced by Sri Lanka Cricket and provide suitable recommendations led to the appointment of a Cabinet Sub-Committee on November 6, 2023. 

Chaired by Minister of Foreign Affairs and President’s Counsel Ali Sabry, the sub-committee included Minister of Power and Energy Kanchana Wijesekara, Minister of Labour and Foreign Employment Manusha Nanayakkara, and Minister of Public Security Tiran Alles.

After extensive discussions with stakeholders involved in cricket, the sub-committee presented its report to the Cabinet on January 8, 2024. 

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Possible extension of president’s term by one year discussed

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The “Maubima” newspaper has reported ongoing discussions about the possibility of extending the term of office of the President by one year through a two-thirds majority in Parliament, without the need for a referendum.

According to the report, parties loyal to the President have consulted legal experts, who believe there is a legal pathway to extend the presidential tenure from five to six years. 

This mirrors the constitutional change made by the 19th Amendment in 2015, which reduced the presidential term from six to five years without a referendum.

Pratibha Mahanama (lawyer), a former professor at the University of Technology Jamaica, has been cited in the news paper report, stating that just as the term was reduced without a referendum in the past, it can now be extended with a two-thirds majority in Parliament.

However, Article 83(b) of the Constitution stipulates that any bill extending the term of office of the President or Parliament beyond six years must be passed by a two-thirds majority in Parliament and be subjected to a referendum.

The newspaper further mentions that if the President fails to secure a two-thirds majority, the extension could still be put to a national referendum as a matter of significant national importance.

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IMF acknowledges progress in Sri Lanka’s debt restructuring

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The International Monetary Fund (IMF) says that there is sufficient progress for Sri Lanka’s Debt Restructuring process to move forward.

However, the IMF further said Sri Lanka’s economy is still vulnerable and the path to debt sustainability remains knife- edged hence the country need to sustain the reform momentum.

Meanwhile, joining the IMF press briefing on Sri Lanka’s second review of EFF program held virtually this morning (14), IMF Senior Mission Chief for Sri Lanka Peter Breuer stated that the IMF fully respect the democratic process for elections to take place in any country and they adapt to the relevant process.

Furthermore, he mentioned that the elections may affect the timing of IMF’s missions they conduct in order to discuss compliance with the programme and reforms going forward.

“We of course fully respect the democratic process for elections to take place in any country and we adapt to that process. So, this may affect a little bit the timing of our missions that we conduct in order to discuss compliance with the programme and reforms going forward”, he said.

“The elections have not been called yet. We will await that and discuss with the authorities how we can adapt our schedule to that of the elections”, Mr. Breuer added.

In response to a question raised by a journalist whether there is scope to adjust the programme and reduce taxes by a newly appointed government following the elections, the IMF Senior Mission Chief for Sri Lanka expressed that it is significant how the reduction in government revenues had contributed to this very severe crisis in Sri Lanka.

He further said: “I just pointed you to these two charts [in the IMF report] to tell the story how the reduction in government revenues had contributed to this very severe crisis to this very severe crisis in Sri Lanka. Re-building these revenues is an important objective of the programme in order to allow Sri Lanka to emerge from the crisis.”

“Of course here we should bring revenue closer to the expenditures that the government is facing to reduce the gap between expenditure and revenue, and that will help to make the debt sustainable again and force Sri Lanka to be able to finance itself at interest rates it can afford and the debt are sustainable.”

“More broadly speaking, we are willing to listen to different views of how the programme objectives can be reached. These need to be realistic and achievable within the time frame of the programme”, he added.

Moreover, the IMF representative also stated that the ‘Public Financial Management’ law has now been sent to Parliament, which will help to strengthen the fiscal framework and enhance fiscal responsibility.

Mr. Breuer highlighted that the law will help to ensure that the funds are being spent by the government as intended.

(adaderana.lk)
(Except for the headline, this story, originally published by adaderana.lk has not been edited by SLM staff)

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