‘Lankans reaping benefits of development in agriculture sector’
Api Wavamu Rata Nagamu, Divi Neguma programmes, main
factors for growth:
In 1912, Sri Lanka had to import 70 percent of the country's rice
requirement for the consumption of seven million people. But in 2012, we
do not import a single seed of paddy for the consumption of 21 million
people as we are self-sufficient in rice.
At present, Sri Lankans are reaping the benefits of development in
the agriculture sector. The sector has reached a golden era. Sri Lanka
is self-sufficient in rice and maize. The country is also reaching
self-sufficiency in other crops such as chilli, onion, etc. Sri Lanka
also has a surplus of vegetables and fruits.
Mahinda Chinthanaya has opened a new and successful chapter in the
agriculture sector. The government’s food production programmes such as
Api Wavamu Rata Nagamu and Divi Neguma are main factors for this growth.
Mahinda Yapa Abeywardena
|Agriculture Department Information
and Communication Director Dr Rohan Wijekoon
As the institution responsible for agricultural development in the
country, the Agriculture Department plays a key role in the success of
Since it was established, the Agriculture Department has carried out
a great service for the development of the agriculture sector.
The department's main functions are research, seed and planting
material production, regulatory services, plant quarantine, soil
conservation, registration of pesticides. Agriculture currently
contributes around 12-13 percent to the Gross Domestic Product while
33-36 percent of the workforce is engaged in agriculture.
“Sri Lanka is predominantly an agricultural country. It has a long
history in agriculture. From ancient times, agriculture has strengthened
the country's economy. Our historical resources prove that we had proper
water management methods, beautiful ways of creating paddy fields,
advanced irrigated rice culture and advanced irrigated cultivation,”
Agriculture Department Information and Communication Director and chief
organiser of the century celebrations Dr Rohan Wijekoon told the Daily
He said historical sources prove that about 20,000 years ago, this
country had a livelihood based on agriculture. As we all know King
Parakramabahu I created large irrigation schemes to develop agriculture.
During his period the country was self-sufficient in rice and even
exported to countries such as Burma (Myanmar) and Siam (Thailand).
According to Wijekoon, Sri Lanka's agriculture sector was badly
affected by foreign invasions. The ancient tank based irrigation culture
and economic pattern completely changed. When Kalinga Maga invaded in
1214, he destroyed all irrigation reservoirs in the Rajarata area,
including Polonnaruwa. It had a drastic impact on the 1,700 year old
irrigation culture of the dry zone. Malaria and soil salinity also
affected the health of the people and forced them to move to the central
“During the Portuguese period they introduced food crops such as
pineapple, papaya, grapes, cashew, breadfruit, tomato, chilli, manioc
and bought cinnamon, pepper and other items from our country. The Dutch
bought cinnamon, arecanut and introduced rambutan, mangusteen, durian,
etc. But development in the agriculture sector did not take place during
the Portuguese and the Dutch periods,” he said.
He added that the British payed more attention to the agriculture
They first developed the country's road system. They grabbed land
from rural farmers under the Crown Land Encroachment Ordinance to
develop the agriculture sector.
All lands in the central hills were completely taken over by coffee
cultivations. But the coffee cultivation was destroyed due to Coffee
Rust disease. Then they introduced tea. The British also introduced
vegetables such as cabbage, beetroot, carrot, leeks, etc cultivated for
the first time on Bakers farm. The owner of Bakers farm was Samuel
Baker. He is considered to be the father of hill country vegetables.
All agricultural activities in Sri Lanka were monitored by the Royal
Botanical Gardens established in 1822. They introduced food crops for
low prices and provided technical assistance to farmers. Tea, rubber,
coffee, coconut and cocoa cultivations were developed during that
The National Farmers’ Week 2012
Governor McCallum appointed a special committee in 1899 to draft a
report on the necessity of the establishment of a department for
agriculture. After 13 years the Agriculture Department was established
by the committee in 1912.
“The current arrangements, under which the Director of Botanical
Gardens provides advice on agricultural matters, do not work well. There
are considerable areas in the Gardens. The system is unsatisfactory not
only to the government, but equally so to the public, both European and
local. I have been convinced that Ceylon should have a proper
Agricultural Department and that the Gardens should for the present be
separated, improved and modernised.” (Seasonal Paper No 7 by Overnor
McMillion in 1911).
Sri Lanka imported over 70 percent of the country's rice requirement
when the Agriculture Department was established in 1912 . It is a matter
of pride to state that now Sri Lanka is self-sufficient in rice.
Introduction of hybrid varieties and the seedling broadcasting method
(commonly known as parachute method) by agriculturists of the department
is the success behind this programme. Sri Lanka's first hybrid variety
is BG 407 H. Hybrid paddy varieties are popular in countries such as
China, Vietnam, Philippines, Indian, Myanmar, USA, etc.
Not only paddy, but Sri Lanka is also self-sufficient in maize. Now
the country has a surplus of fruits and vegetables. Under the guidance
of Agriculture Minister Mahinda Yapa Abeywardena and Director General of
the Department K. G. Sriyapala, the Agriculture Department is rendering
a great service for the betterment of the agriculture sector in
accordance with the Mahinada Chinthana policy.
The Agriculture Department celebrates 100 years this year. The
National Farmers’ Week 2012 will be held in Gannoruwa, Kandy to mark the
The celebrations are from July 20-25 under the theme Hunger Free
Proud Century. The opening ceremony of the Farmers’ Week and the
National Agriculture Exhibition is held on July 20 under the patronage
of Economic Development Minister Basil Rajapaksa.
The construction of an agriculture museum will commence on July 22
under the patronage of President Mahinda Rajapaksa coinciding with the
Admission to the exhibition is free of charge for schoolchildren and
elders should buy a Govisetha ticket as the entrance ticket.
The evolution of the country's agriculture sector will be showcased
at the exhibition. All food crops introduced by the Portuguese, Dutch
and British, and other improved varieties will also be showcased at the