The decision taken by the Government to ban the import
of all food items that can be locally grown, within the next two
years is a commendable one and in fact is long overdue.
Agriculture Minister Maithripala Sirisena announcing the
Government stand during an awareness program about the National
Food Week under the Api Wawamu Rata Nagamu food production drive
harked back to the country’s proud agricultural civilization
dating back 2,500 years implying that this should act as an
impetus to make the country self sufficient in food once again.
Today, the country is saddled with a huge import bill on food
items that could easily be produced locally. There was a time,
in the not too distant past, when even kankun was imported,
earning for the then Trade Minister many a brickbat from the
True, time and again there is a need for such imports at
times of food crises and scarcities to cater to the public
demand. That is why the Government is sometimes forced to import
items such as rice and potatoes during crop failure or, in the
case of rice, the failure of Yala and Maha seasons and crop
damage due to floods or other natural calamities.
But there are times when the imports have been made even
during times of rich harvests dealing a body blow to the farmer
on the one hand while squandering away valuable foreign exchange
on the other.
The Government is also constrained in imposing harsh
restrictions on imports given the dynamics of an open economy
and it can only deter imports by imposing additional taxes and
levies. But the time has come to look at the whole issue from a
In this regard, we can learn a lot from India which has not
hesitated to ban any imports that would be inimical to the
interests of the local farmer as exemplified by a comment by
former Indian Prime Minister when asked about India’s import
policy famously quipped” Micro Chops - Yes. Potato Chips - No.
This is a policy that Sri Lanka would do well to adopt in the
future regarding imports. Not just food items but also other
goods which we could do without.
The early days of the open economy saw the country became a
veritable dumping ground for discarded goods from other
countries which saw a steady flight of our valuable foreign
Since those early days many laws were passed and amendments
brought in to restrict such goods entering the country.
Nevertheless we still see indiscriminate imports to the country
particularly vehicles and other luxury items, depleting our
The firm announcement of ban on the import of food items that
could be produced locally should ideally be a beginning to
gradually plug in the steady stream of imports that the country
could do without.
However good the intentions of the Minister, this should be
backed by proper incentives and concessions to the farmer to
spur him on to increase production. Often times we hear how
farmers who fall on bad times are left to fend for themselves.
There are even instances in the past where farmers had
committed suicide unable to pay back their agriculture loans.
Complaints are also made of farmers not getting their fertilizer
on time and also been denied their fertilizer subsidy.
But the biggest challenge faced by the Government is the
issue of mass migration to the cities from the rural outback by
the next generation of farmers seeking greener pastures.
This is an unwelcome trend which should gain the immediate
attention of the Government which has launched a massive food
production drive and is planning to impose total ban on food
imports. For, this certainly means the abandoning of agriculture
as a livelihood and a break with a vital link of the country’s
Therefore, all measures should be taken to revive agriculture
to its pristine glory by providing all the wherewithal and
attractive incentives so that more and more youth would follow
in the footsteps of their past generations and make Sri Lanka
self sufficient in food. There would then be no need to import
our essential food items at any time whatsoever in the future
giving ample justification for the contemplated ban.
The death of an idol
The world pop music scene will not be the same again
with the passing away of Michael Jackson the iconic star who
strutted the world music stage for over two decades dishing out
his unique fare which mesmerized millions of music fans all over
No single music figure before him had received such fan
adulation as the enigmatic star who rose from a humble family
background to become one of the world’s most celebrated figures
- another typical tale of black renaissance.
Perhaps the old timers who worshipped such legends as Frank
Sinatra, Jim Reeves or Elvis Presley may not have taken to his
brand of music which catered to an entirely new generation
caught on by the new rage of modern music.
But there is no denying the aura and almost cult status
enjoyed by the iconic pop idol for his unique singing style and
stage performance that sent millions of fans into raptures.
No doubt Michael Jackson had a huge fan club in Sri Lanka and
his cult status was evident with even ordinary youth with little
or no English knowledge wearing Jackson hairstyles and Jackson
T-shirts to proclaim their solidarity with one of the most
extraordinary figures that adorned the world stage.