The ambitious food
production drive of President Mahinda Rajapaksa is evidently
yielding results. According to our front page story yesterday
the Yala crop has recorded a 50 percent increase over the 2007
yield. Significantly it was in 2007 that President Rajapaksa
launched the national food production drive in the wake of a
looming global food crisis.
That we have been able to come out the crisis unscathed is
testimony to the soundness of this strategy once more driving
home the importance of growing our own food instead of
subjecting ourselves to the vagaries of global conditions.
The report also notes that the bumper Yala harvest coincides
with the cultivation of all abandoned paddy lands under the
Government’s Api Wavamu Rata Nagamu program. Agriculture
Minister Maithripala Sirisena presenting a set of new
regulations under the Agrarian Development Act in Parliament
told the House that in the Western Province alone 50 percent of
fallow lands were cultivated during the ensuing period.
This shows the potential for agriculture even in a urbanised
backdrop which augers well for future plans to boost the
country’s food production drive. The Government should come down
hard on unauthorised filling of abandoned paddy land. Today even
large acres of coconut land have been parcelled out by property
developers doing massive harm to crop and inducing scarcities.
What is required is to strike a healthy balance between
development and preserving the country’s agricultural heritage.
The New Regulations will also vest the Ministry with powers
to seize uncultivated agriculture lands from their owners and
transfer them to others for cultivation purposes. A significant
factor that contributed to the high yield is also the
agricultural activity in the liberated East where according to
the Minister some 50,000 hectares were brought under the plough.
With the total liberation of the North things can only
improve by leaps and bounds.
Many Governments in the past commenced ambitious food
production drives. There was the famous ‘grow more food’
campaign by the 65-70 Dudley Senanayake Government while the
United Front Government that followed also launched many
campaigns to boost local agricultural production and even went
to the extent of banning imports of items such as lentils and
onions that could be grown locally. These measure naturally
caused scarcities since the demand far outstripped production
which invariably led to the fall of that Government.
Had only our people been a little more patient and allowed
the production drive to catch on we would have been near self
sufficient in many of the food items we import today draining
valuable Foreign exchange. By Minister Sirisena’s own admission
the Government spends nearly Rs.100 billion annually to import
food items that could be produced locally. He said the
Government’s intention was to cultivate all such food crops
locally within the next two years under its national food
production drive. This is with the aim of creating a
agricultural boom in the country obviating the need for imports.
In this context the move to appropriate uncultivated
agriculture land from their owners is a sound one. This, while
putting a halt to creeping urbanisation in the villages would
also dissuade the next generation of farmers migrating to the
cities for white collar jobs as the trend indicates. They would
now be compelled to stay back and cultivate their lands.
It is indeed sad that many of our people consider it infra
dig to engage in agricultural pursuits. This, in a country which
boasts of a 2500 old agro civilisation. Even in highly
industrialised countries like Japan pride of place is given to
agriculture and where self sufficiency is achieved in rice and
many other food crops. In the industrialised West with all the
high tech sophistication the ‘gentleman farmer’ is still a
prominent figure in society and people take pride in engaging in
A similar ethos should be instilled in the next generation of
our farmer community too in order to keep them within the
fold.If not the food production drive would some day come
unstuck due to the depletion of the farmer community in the
country. This complaint is already being made in the fisheries
All incentives should be given to persuade more and more
people to take up agricultural farming as an occupation. They
should be harkened to the glorious past where the country was
known as Asia’s rice bowl and the marvels of the hydraulic
systems and giant irrigation tanks that still stands sentinel to
a once booming agricultural civilisation.