Self sufficiency in rice
Rice being the
staple food of Sri Lankans self-sufficiency in rice goes a long
way in ensuring food security of the population. Yet even six
decades after gaining independence the country continues to
Since the sixties almost every government that came to power
promised self-sufficiency and even declared a couple of times
that it has been achieved. Yet self-sufficiency in rice seems to
be an elusive goal.
Though more and more land has been brought under the plough,
rice production has not been able to cope with the increase of
population. Even now the acreage under paddy would increase due
to the end of the war with and the cultivation of rice in the
North and the East.
Several factors have been responsible for this sad state of
affairs. The UNP which ruled the country for nearly three
decades neglected paddy production on the ill-conceived advice
of the World Bank. The latter has been consistently advising the
government to give priority to commercial cash crops and to
entice the farming community to such crops. Fortunately SLFP led
governments did not listen to World Bank advice. Had they done
so Sri Lankans would have experienced famine during the recent
world food crisis. The UNP not only neglected paddy cultivation
but also dismantled the efficient system of agricultural
extension officers. It also sold to the private sector many
profitable and valuable State farms.
The education system did not give priority to the development
of human resources required for agriculture. Though the
extension of the University system in the recent past had opened
more vistas for young men and women to study agriculture those
who have majored in it are either without jobs or are working in
fields far remote from their field of undergraduate study.
The biggest drawback that is preventing the country reaching
self-sufficiency is the high cost of production. The industry
has not been equipped with modern technology. Many attempts at
doing so proved to be unproductive due to the inappropriate
nature of the technology introduced. The introduction of high
capacity four-wheel tractors is an example. Most tractors
imported were used to transport construction material instead of
being used in the fields. No serious attempts were made to
develop suitable technology locally.
The ill-effects of the Green revolution which emphasised the
use of chemical fertilizers is another factor. The continued
escalation of fertilizer prices by multi-nationals resulted in a
parallel increase in the cost of production. Further, the
fertility of the soil has been badly affected by long-term use
of chemical fertilizers. It is necessary to switch over to
organic farming if agriculture is to be sustainable.
Sri Lanka could also benefit from research and their
applications in other countries that have developed both
flood-resistant and drought-resistant varieties of rice.
Research could also be conducted to develop new high-yielding
varieties from traditional varieties of rice that were produced
in the country before the introduction of new hybrid varieties
in the colonial and post-colonial times.
Ensuring food security also requires preserving the crop at
least till the next harvest. Here again inexpensive and simple
methods of storage and preservation should be developed.
Self-sufficiency would not be beneficial to the masses if rice
is not available at an affordable price. Hence, reducing the
cost of production is an all time necessity.
End of an era
from the Sinhala and Tamil speaking families in the rural
hinterland are to train Colombo Royal College teachers in spoken
English, said a news item Saturday.
It is an irony of history that the elite centre of learning
that excelled in the use of kaduwa mesmerising the godayas by
sheer fluency of speech has to learn Spoken English from the
latter. The wheel has turned full circle. The end of the kaduwa
dominance has begun.