‘Revolutionary change in farming needed’ | Daily News

‘Revolutionary change in farming needed’

The time is ripe to bring about a revolutionary change in the country’s agricultural policy, to make farming a profitable business, Agriculture Minister Mahinda Amaraweera said.

The minister was speaking at the Sri Lanka Council for Agricultural Research Policy (SLCARP) symposium 2018, held yesterday in Colombo, under the theme ‘Doubling the Farmers’ Income through Innovative Agriculture.’

“In the past, our policy primarily focused on ‘National Food Security’ and achieving production targets without paying sufficient attention to the enhancement of the income and livelihoods of farmers,” said the minister.

He said the agricultural policy, recently launched by the ministry, identified several strategies to empower farmers by establishing farmer producer organisations and to link the farmer to the market. The government is committed to increase the agriculture sector’s share in the GDP, which will lead to increasing farmer incomes.

“Our main focus is to increase agricultural productivity and profitability. An important item of our policy is to reduce imports of agricultural products, which can be produced by our farmers, giving them better prices while promoting exports for a high income. New market trends indicate a high demand for organic agricultural produce. Therefore, one way of increasing the farmers’ income, is to encourage chemical-free and environmentally-sustainable agricultural production. We need the participation of the private sector over the entire value chain to achieve success in our programme,” said the minister.

He added that the government is aware of the impact of climate change on farming communities and has introduced an attractive insurance scheme covering five crops to help farmers cope with unfavourable weather conditions.

The government has also allocated a large amount of money to rehabilitate thousands of minor tanks, to stabilize farmer income and food production within the next couple of years, he said.

“One of the biggest problems our farmers are facing today is the small size in land holdings which, in most cases, is less than a hectare.

“Therefore, it is extremely difficult for a farmer to adopt mechanization, use modern technology and earn an adequate income only by farming. Hence, most of our farmers are part-time farmers or operate at subsistence levels. Therefore, the state policy has been to give subsidies and other assistance to sustain farming as a profession,” the minister added.

SLCARP Chairman Dr. Gerry Jayawardena said over 70 percent of the 1.8 million farmer families in Sri Lanka earn a net income of less than Rs. 50,000 per month.

“About 40 percent of them come under the three components of farming such as rice-based farming, highland for other vegetables, and fruit cultivations and homeland. Others come under the category of two components and single component farming,” said the Chairman.

According to the Department of Agriculture statistics, the most profitable crops are potato, green chilies, big onion, pineapple, banana and papaya, where a farmer could obtain a net return of above Rs. 50,000 up to Rs. 80,000 and Rs. 100,000.

These farmers do not constitute over 10 percent of the farming population and a majority of the farming population gets a monthly income of less than Rs. 30,000.

Agriculture Deputy Minister Angajan Ramanathan, Ministry Secretary B. Wijeratne, Agriculture State Secretary V. Bandulasena, International Rice Research Institute and Agri-food Policy Platform Head Dr. Jean Balie, Agriculture Director General W.M.W. Weerakoon, SLCARP Secretary J.D.H. Wijewardena, Heads of Department, local and foreign agriculture scientists and others participated. 


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