'Govt spends nearly Rs 29b for importation of milk'
Deputy Speaker Chandima Weerakkody presided when Parliament met at
9.30 am yesterday. After the presentation of papers and oral questions,
the House took up the committee stage debate of the Appropriation Bill
2012, on the Finance Heads of Agriculture, Plantation Industries,
Coconut Development and Janata Estate Development, Minor Export Crop
Promotion and Livestock and Rural Community Development.
Dayasiri Jayasekera (UNP): I propose that the recurrent expenditures
of these Finance Heads should be curtailed from Rs 10.
Livestock and Rural Community Development Deputy Minister H R
Mithrapala: For the importation of milk necessary to the country, we are
spending about Rs 29 billion. So we have paid attention to produce milk
necessary to the country within the country. According to my
calculations, we can distribute Rs 20,000 to 125,000 people if we save
this money within the country.
The President's aim is to make this country self sufficient in milk
by 2015. We are taking measures to promote milk productions in the
We request the Plantation Industries Ministry to offer to make
available about three acres of land to grow grass necessary for
livestock farming, in plantation estates.
People have been encouraged to involve themselves in livestock
farming under the 'Divi Neguma' programme. We are granting loans for
livestock farmers and we have requested the authorities concerned to
grant these loans at reduced interest rates.
While local milk production is inadequate to meet the demand, a
popular local brand name with regard to milk is 'Highland' and people
have kept faith on this brand because of its high quality.
We hope to import milch cows necessary to the country to suit our
P Harison (UNP): I would like to apologise for being late for the
debate. Today the oral questions around had ended quickly which was
We intend producing high quality paddy seed varieties within the
country and the Bathalegoda Research Institute needs to undertake this
task. Without high quality paddy varieties, how could we cater to
international market? State seed farms should be provided with
incentives to produce new types of high quality paddy seeds.
About 80 percent of milk productions needed to the country is being
imported at present.
Chandrakumar Murugesu (UPFA): Now farmers are getting ready to
harvest paddy for the next season. These farmers should be provided with
the necessary facilities. A large number of abandoned paddy fields in
Killinochchi are once again being harvested. Therefore paddy production
in the country would increase.
Due to the havoc, created by floods, some farmers have fallen in
trouble and had been unable to repay the loans they had obtained. These
farmers should be provided with relief. Necessary irrigation facilities
should be provided to paddy lands in Killinochchi. The Irrigation
Ministry should coordinate with the Agriculture Ministry for this task.
Deputy Chairman of Committees Chandrakumar Murugesu takes the Chair.
Gayantha Karunathilake (UNP): I would like to speak on tea production
in the country. We can be happy over the fact that the tea production in
the country has been gradually increasing.
The tea production in 2010 had been 315 million kgs. The contribution
of small tea holders for this production had amounted to 70 percent.
Most of these tea smallholders own less than two acres of land. However,
the government should provide more facilities to these tea smallholders
as an encouragement for better productions.
The management of many estate companies had not been satisfactory.
There are many weaknesses in the management, which has resulted in the
Eric Prasanna (UPFA): I would like to speak about minor export crops.
In our development process, these minor export crops have an important
role to play. Sri Lanka has been famous for exporting minor export crops
since ancient times which had subjected to the invasion of foreign
The Central Province has been an ideal climate and geographical
requirement for the cultivation of minor export crops.
We have got a separate minister to look into this sector and we are
glad that he is personally probing into the problems in this sector. He
has also initiated the establishment of a minor export crops garden in
Govt must revive farmers' pension scheme
Anura Kumara Dissanayake (DNA): The government must take measures to
revive the pension scheme of farmers. The pension scheme of farmers has
been defunct today. It is the responsibility of the government to
address the grievances of farmers.
It is necessary to improve milk and egg production to cater the local
needs. The current egg and milk productivity had not been sufficient to
meet local demands. We can save foreign exchange flowing out if we could
increase local dairy production. It has been necessary to set up medium
and large-scale dairy farms. There are only 260,000 dairy farmers in the
country. Around 220,000 out of the 260,000 dairy farmers daily produce
has been about 15 liters of milk per each farmer per day. We need
farmers who at least could produce 100 liters of milk each per day to
meet local demands.
Education Deputy Minister Vijith Vijayamuni Zoysa: President Mahinda
Rajapaksa has shown a keen interest to develop the plantation sector.
That's why massive funds have been allocated in this budget. There are a
large number of tea smallholders in the country.
The government has decided to distribute abandoned tea lands among
the tea smallholders. Subsidies given to tea cultivators and chena
farmers have been increased. This would be a great relief for them.
Shritharan (TNA): The government should make concession to
agriculture and livestock farmers in the North and East. Necessary
action should be taken by the government to encourage these farmers.
Required irrigation facilities should be provided by paddy farmers in
Lots of coconut trees had been destroyed during the war. A number of
coconut tress had been felled to construct bunkers. Therefore, action
must be taken to distribute coconut saplings among the Northerners.
Concessions should be provided to potato farmers
Public Management Reforms Minister Naveen Dissanayake: The
government's decision of providing fertiliser subsidy to vegetable
farmers in the hill country has been commendable.
Upcountry farmers have benefitted from the fertilizer subsidy. We
must move forward with the latest technology.
We must also follow a proper methodology to increase our production.
Importing potatoes from India had resulted in reducing the local
potato production. According to figures, the local potato production had
declined. Therefore, it is necessary to provide some concessions to
local potato farmers.
Livestock and Rural Community Development Minister Arumugam
Thondaman: As for the development of the livestock sector, my Ministry
should give a boost to revive the sector. The Ministry has been carrying
out three projects by lending a hand to boost the level of livestock
farmers in the country. The dairy village programme which had been
started in 2004, is being continued with great success. The subsidy
component under this has been increased to Rs 35,000 per beneficiary.
Promotion of liquid milk consumption had been a basic pledge in the
'Mahinda Chinthana' policy concept and it has been supported by
establishing milk sales outlets throughout the country.
This will be further supported with the recently commissioned UHT
milk processing by Milco and supplying them in economical packs. Milco
is not in a position to process 70,000 liters of milk per 8 hours shift
per UHT plant in multiple sizes and also expand the production as the
demand for the new product expands in the market.
Parliament resumed sittings at 1 p.m after it was adjourned at 12.30
p.m for lunch.
Prime Minister D.M. Jayaratne: We have developed our agriculture
sector to export rice today. We have a variety of fruits abundantly in
our country. So it is not wise to import fruits to our country, as fruit
cultivators would be discouraged.
When we reap a good harvest, we do not make use of it in a proper
manner. In China, they preserved the vegetables for about 2 years. We
don't need to preserve that long, but the vegetables should be preserved
to last for a few months.
The seed production is some what better. The use of wheat flour in
Sri Lanka should be stopped. We should put a full stop to the import of
wheat flour. We could use rice flour instead.
There is a variety of foods we can prepare from rice flour.
Sometimes, when a tea sapling is planted, money is spent on three
occasions, which is a waste. So we have to punish the officials who have
been involved in such corruptions. We have to take the maximum benefits
from our resources.
R. Yogarajan (UNP): We appreciate the governments move to take over
the underutilized lands in extent of 37,000 hectares in tea estates.
When those lands were devided among the public the government should
make sure that the estate sector workers are also benefited.
The salaries of the estate sector have not been increased by the
Shantha Bandara (UPFA): The UNP criticized the management of the
programmes of the ministries. But I would like to ask if they have a
proper system of management is the opposition, specially in the UNP and
JVP? At present the UNP is attempting to remove UNP Leader Ranil
Wickremesinghe. If the UNP thinks that by removing their leader, they
can challenge the government, it is just a myth.
Now the farmers earn a good income. There were times when the farmers
even committed suicide as they were unable to settle their loans. But
that situation has changed.
There are large number of betel farmers in Kurunegala. They cultivate
black betel to export but they face many problems when they export them.
Thalatha Athukorala (UNP): I am happy that we have to debate on
important ministries and of subjects of talented ministers. Earlier the
tea cultivation was a subject of elite class. But now 75 percent of tea
cultivation is engaged by ordinary people.
The small tea cultivators are around 500,000 in number while almost 2
million people are involved in the industry.
Most of the estates we have plants aged below 50 years. So the tender
leaves crop becomes minimal so that we have to replant them. For replant
a hectare of tea estate nearly Rs. 800,000 to Rs. 1 million is needed.
The reliefs provided by government for re-plantation is commendable.
There are around 100 factories in our area. The people sometimes find
firewood for those factories from the Sinharajah forest. They sometimes
cut trees in the Sinharajah forest as they face a problem of finding
fire wood for tea factories.
Thalatha Athukorala takes the Chair:
Disparities with regard to distribution of food
Indigenous Medicine Minster Salinda Dissanayake: I wish to speak of
agriculture. The world is facing two serious issues in the future. One
is global warning, while the other is food.
There are disparities with regard to the distribution of food. Food
security should be ensured, since various chemicals are being used in
the processing of food, as well as during cultivations.
Our country has been self-sufficient from paddy since ancient times.
But due to the open economy introduced in 1977, we had to depend on the
international market to fulfill our needs. However, the Mahinda
Chinthana policies have been able to reverse this impact once again.
The 'Gama Neguma' and 'Divi Neguma' cater to this target.
Harin Fernando (UNP): In the Badulla district that I represent, there
is 111,272 hectares of arable land. Among this, only about 93,000
hectares have been cultivated. The forest cover in the Badulla district
amounts to 81,467 hectares. From the cultivated lands, the majority has
been cultivated utilizing irrigational water, while the rest had been
cultivated from rain water. About 70 percent of the population in this
district has been involved in the agricultural sector. If this
government had given facilities and relief as it says to the farmers,
the farmers would not have committed suicide.
S C Muthukumarana (UPFA): The Agriculture Ministry should coordinate
with Lands, Irrigation and Agrarian Services Ministry for better
Today our country is self-sufficient from rice. The Maha Ilukpallama
farm had been neglected over the past years, but we have now paid
attention to upgrade it. This farm can contribute a lot to the promotion
Parallel to the 'Deyata Sevana' exhibition in Anuradhapura, a sum of
Rs 60 million had been allocated to set up agriculture development
villages. This will help towards the development of agriculture sector
in this district.
Ashok Abeysinghe (UNP): I would like to inquire from the Agriculture
Ministry as to which programmes and initiatives that the allocations
given to the ministry last year had been utilized?
About half of the money allocated for this ministry for next year,
has been allocated for recurrent expenditure. There had been a surplus
of rice in the country last year. However in 2010, 126,000 metric tons
of rice had been imported to the country. Most of the varieties of rice
imported, had been those produced locally.
We have to reduce the importation of wheat flour to the country. Rice
production should be promoted in the country. I appreciate that some of
these initiatives have already been taken by the ministry.
Gayantha Karunathilake takes the Chair.
Plantation Industries Deputy Minister Earl Gunasekera: Both rubber
and tea have been export oriented products and therefore depend on the
export market. There is a severe collapse in the world economy. Once I
met the Opposition Leader at a funeral and he said that a severe global
economic crisis is approaching and therefore the best option is to be in
the Opposition at this time period. However, this government has faced
We have distributed fertilizer subsidy to all cultivations. The
rubber production has been increasing gradually. This had been 32
million kgs in 2005, but this had increased to 82 million kgs this year.
We have started rubber cultivation in non-traditional areas as well.
We have started rubber cultivation in 5,000 acres in Moneragala and
10,000 acres in Ampara. Rubber has been successfully cultivated in
Hambantota, Polonnaruwa and Vavuniya too.
Even the tea production in the country has gradually risen. This
amount had been 317 million kgs in 2005 and this has gone up to 331
million kgs this year.
Abandoned plantation lands totaling 37,000 acres will be distributed
among small and medium-scale holders to cultivate them once again.
Chandrani Bandara (UNP): The money allocated for the Agriculture
Ministry is sufficient only for its maintenance. So we have to question
as to why such stepmotherly treatment is being given to this Ministry?
We recently saw a vegetable farmer in Nuwara Eliya let his harvest of
leeks rot as he was unable to sell them. My view is that fertilizer
subsidies were not sufficient to the farmers. Most of the farmers do not
have deeds for their farming lands.
Minor Export Crop Promotion Minister Reginold Cooray: Today the Minor
Export Crops have an unprecedented price. Last year, we were able to
earn Rs 24,000 million. Our objective is to double this income.
Cinnamon has a price of Rs 900 to Rs 1,200 a kilo, while all other
spices have a price of that range. We still export spices as raw
material. If we can send them as finished products, or value added
products, we can be able to earn a 10 fold income.
We have taken measures to increase the cultivation of these crops by
3,000 hectares each year. This year we could extend the cultivation to
3,100 hectares. We have cultivated 100 hectares at the Army camp in
We could earn Rs 11 million out of cashew cultivation. We also
conduct research to produce wine from cashew and produce break pads from
These cultivations should be introduced with modern technology. We
have sent some of our officials abroad to acquire knowledge in the use
of modern technology.
There is a serious problem in finding trained labour. India is
engaged in a massive industry involved with spices and we too have to
come up to such a standard.
President Mahinda Rajapaksa has allocated an additional amount of Rs
150 million this year for this Ministry.
Gamini Jayawickrama Perera (UNP): I appreciate the plans of Minor
Export Crop Promotion Minister to develop the industries. I wish he
could realize those dreams. As a politician, one should have a vision or
else he could not expect a good service from our officials.
Today all crops have been produced by the use of poisonous chemicals.
Coconut Development and Janata Estate Development Minister Jagath
Pushpakumara: I am very happy that no member made any complaint against
any finance head which was taken for debate today.
The government has taken steps to develop coconut cultivation in the
South, East and other coastal areas, in addition to the traditional
coconut triangle. Action had been taken to preserve prime coconut lands
and increase productivity through the introduction of new planting
varieties and methods of cultivation. Financial assistance have been
provided to undertake coconut cultivation, using drip irrigation. A
programme has been launched to develop a market for desiccated coconut
and to develop the coconut oil industry. Coconut saplings have been
distributed to the people under the 'Kapruka Purawara' programme. A
national coconut sector development plan "Kapruka Nanodawa' has also
We have already distributed 4 million coconut seedlings. A percentage
of 1.8 million seedlings will be provided to 0.9 million grade 6
students through out the island.
P. Ariyanethran (TNA): Coconut cultivation in Pasikuda had been
neglected and the land had been allocated for the construction of new
hotels. You must pay attention in this regard. Batticaloa is famous for
curd production. But this industry has collapsed today, due to various
problems. Lands which have been used to cultivate cashew nuts, has now
been occupied by people. Therefore, prices of cashew nuts have
We are now engaged in a 'War of cultivation
Agriculture Minister Mahinda Yapa Abeywardene: Following the end of
the three decade war, we are now engaged in the war of cultivation,
which being our unending effort at growing every inch of arable land
within all four corners of the island. The guidance and instructions
provided by the President in this context is of immense value to us and
we are fortunate to have the necessary resources and facilities to
ensure the success of this cultivation drive.
As a result, the country in 2010 has witnessed marked improvements in
the field of agriculture, recording a growth of 7 percent and our
expectation is to exceed 8 percent by the end of 2011. In 2012, it has
been planned to further expand the local seed production, promote
organic fertilizer application, cultivate all abandoned paddy lands,
encourage home gardening and commercial based agriculture and
infrastructure development, while imposing restrictions on food imports
at the highest possible level.
Wasantha Aluvihare (UNP): Most of state programmes have failed as
there was no follow up. Prices of agro chemicals have increased.
Therefore, farmers have to spend large sums of money for agro based
chemicals and agricultural equipment.
Therefore, farmers are unable to make any profits. A national policy
for agriculture should be formulated to address the problems pertaining
to the agriculture sector.
Palitha Thewarapperuma (UNP): Even though I was jailed, people in the
Kalutara district granted me the opportunity to represent them in this
House once again and I am thankful to them. There are people in the
Kalutara district who are involved in the plantation sector. But these
people face numerous hardships. They are not given adequate facilities.
Deputy Chairman of Committees Chandrakumar Murugesu takes the Chair.
Plantation Industries Minister Mahinda Samarasinghe: I am thankful to
the President for providing massive relief to the people involved in the
plantation sector from last year's, as well as from this year's budgets.
He had consulted many experts in the field when compiling budget
proposals with regard to the plantation sector. Tea smallholders have
been further strengthened through these proposals.
Tea and rubber brings us a vast amount of foreign exchange. By the
end of 2010, we have been able to earn US $ 1.3 billion as foreign
exchange from tea exports. About 95 percent of the tea production in the
country is being exported. We expect to earn US $ 1.5 billion foreign
exchange from tea exports by the end of this year. When I assumed duties
in this ministry, I observed that more relief and facilities should be
provided for replantation. I think we have to improve the replantation
percentage up to two percent. The President had increased the grant
given for replantations up to Rs 300,000. This will be granted in 2012.
These plantation estates are public property. Therefore these
properties should be properly utilized to the maximum, for the benefit
of the general public.
We have already imposed regulations through the Tea Board making 2
percent replantation compulsory. This will be implemented strictly next
year. The grant for new plantations have been increased up to Rs
150,000. This will also be granted from next year. These measures will
strengthen tea smallholders.
This grant has been given in addition to other benefits given to new
plantations. We are doing this in an organized manner.
Now we have identified 37,000 acres of RPCs which have not been
cultivated. In Budget 2010, the President had announced that
uncultivated RPC lands will be taken over after a 6 month grace period.
Despite this announcement, only a few RPC lands had been replanted up to
now. The Livestock Minister also extended a proposal to hand over some
of these lands for livestock farming.
This proposal will also be considered by the President. There are
numerous such proposals over these lands.
We have given a number of measures of relief to cut down production
costs. We have a target to improve good quality tea leaves percentage up
to 60 percent.
We have to have a better propaganda for our tea in the international
market. Ceylon tea is a popular brand in the world market due to its
high standard. We need to give more publicity to our tea.
From tea auctions, tea smallholders receive 68 percent whereas
company owners receive only 32 percent. So from all these initiatives,
tea smallholders have been strengthened in all possible means.
The Finance Heads were passed without amendments.
Social Services Minister Felix Perera told Parliament yesterday that
action would be taken to make it compulsory for public buildings to be
made available for disabled people in line with Supreme Court orders.
The Minister was responding to an adjournment motion moved by UPFA MP
A H M Azwer.
A H M Azwer (UPFA): Since the Supreme Court under SC(FR) 22/2009
dated April 27, 2011 has mandated that all parts of new public buildings
and places hereinafter, shall be designed and constructed in accordance
with design requirements specified in the said regulations.
And no person should be discriminated against on the ground of
disability and their mobility restricted in a manner which precludes or
impedes them from enjoying equally their inherent right to access,
safety and accommodation in day-to-day life at public buildings, public
places and facilities provided therewith. This House is of opinion that
regulations be introduced to comply with the said Supreme Court Order.
Housing, Contruction, Engineering and Common Amenities Deputy
Minister Lasantha Alagiyawanna, said that the Urban Development
Authority had taken measures to provide access to disabled people when
new public buildings and public places are constructed.
Social Services Minister Felix Perera: We have paid special attention
to this issue. All buildings should be constructed, providing easy
access to the disabled people according to Supreme Court orders.
The government has taken measures to provide allowances of Rs 3,000
to each disabled person.
The House was adjourned until 9.30 am today.