|Tuesday, 3 June 2003|
by Uditha Kumarasinghe
This year's Maha season has brought a bumper harvest with a record yield of 1.93 million Metric tons the highest ever in a Maha season, Agriculture Ministry Secretary Dhanasena Hettiarachchi told the Daily News yesterday.
He said 660,000 hectares had been cultivated during the 2002-2003 Maha season whereby 1.93 million Metric tons of paddy were harvested, which is the biggest ever harvest in terms of the land area cultivated, he said.
The previous highest Maha yield was 1.7 million metric tons in the 2001-2002 Maha season. Compared with the previous Maha season, the 2002-2003 season has recorded a 15 per cent increase in yield, he said.
Among the chief reasons, the ongoing peace process has enabled paddy cultivation in most areas in the North-East lands which hitherto were abandoned due to the war. "The number of paddy lands cultivated throughout the country has increased by 20 per cent after the peace process began," Hettiarachchi said.
The peace process has enabled transport of seed paddy, fertiliser and other agro-chemicals to the North-East freely, with the removal of travel restrictions and the lifting of an embargo on goods.
The peace process has enabled farmers in Jaffna, Kilinochchi, Mullaitivu, Vavuniya, Batticaloa, Trincomalee and Ampara districts to engage freely in their cultivation. An additional 100,000 hectares of paddy lands have been cultivated during this Maha season compared with the previous Maha season.
Nearly 40 per cent of the total number of paddy lands abandoned in Colombo, Gampaha and Kalutara districts were cultivated in Maha season.
Hettiarachchi said: "At present the country is in a very good position with regard to paddy cultivation. This has enabled us to meet our total rice requirement locally. In addition, Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe has instructed the relevant authorities to stop rice imports."
Meanwhile, it is expected that this year will also witness a record Yala season with an anticipated target of 1.52 million metric tons of paddy cultivated in 401,551 hectares of land throughout the country.
At present, 90 per cent of the lands for the Yala season have already been cultivated, he said.
He said the recent floods have also not caused any serious damage to the Yala paddy cultivation. Floods have only affected 15000 hectares. There is enough water for the Yala season.
Agriculture Minister S.B. Dissanayake is expected to hold discussions with representatives of the Food and Agriculture Organisation and the World Food Programme with a view to obtaining assistance for farmers whose cultivations have been affected by recent floods and also to reconstruct the irrigation canals damaged by floods, he said.
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