Agripreneurs’ Forum calls to revive agri sector | Daily News


 

Agripreneurs’ Forum calls to revive agri sector

Sri Lanka Agripreneurs’ Forum issuing a letter to the President Gotabhaya Rajapaksa has proposed some immediate measures and some urgent actions in agriculture sector and to implement a medium and long term vision to help the sector get back on its feet in the aftermath of COVID-19 crisis.

The Agriculture Sector employs over three million people, both directly and indirectly, who are highly vulnerable to economic shocks.

As such Sri Lanka Agripreneurs’ Forum stresses the need for the immediate establishment of a National Steering Committee for Agriculture comprising Government Officials and Private Sector representatives, where minimum of 60% representation is from the Private Sector, spanned across diverse areas in agriculture (including livestock and fisheries), such as; growers, farmer organizations, agri value-addition enterprises, agri professionals and academics, agri scientists, local and global marketers of agri produce, providers of agri inputs, and local agri investors,” Sri Lanka Agripreneurs’ Forum Chairman Rizvi Zaheed said.

Moreover , it has been suggested to implement “National Agri Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) System”, which will function as a holistic system for the entire Sri Lankan Agricultural fraternity which will address key aspects such as national demand forecasting and crop and yield planning , ensure minimum guaranteed price for the farmer, Be a conduit between the producers, local wholesale buyers, and exporters ,Facilitate pre-bookings and online trade facilitation (this will not omit the wholesalers) ,Integrate agricultural-value-chain , Integrate and introduce performance and contribution based Farmer Pension Scheme , Channel existing loan schemes, grants, and subsidies (including fertilizer) through the system to attract and influence farmers and embrace the change and system.

“It is also essential to upgrade existing storage facilities preferably near the economic centres, and convert them into cool rooms using available resources and utilise idling resources while allowing to importing the best quality seeds available in the global market would be a pre-requisite to reduce cost of production and increase yield.

Permit Efficient procedures for testing such new seed and plant varieties must be immediately adopted with all seed importers and commercial farmers being permitted to test new seeds and plant varieties at their own farms under the supervision of the Department of Agriculture. Local seed, plant propagation and tissue culture laboratories must be supported for long term sustainability and food security.”

Other key recommendations include establishing a system of Guaranteed Minimum Price based on cost of production for agricultural produce which will ensure a satisfactory return for the risk and investment made by the farmer , Implementing higher tariffs as appropriate on imported food items, only for which are locally produced, to maintain food security and protect the domestic production and value-chain and granting subsidised agricultural loans up to a maximum of 10 million at an interest rate of 6% with a grace period of 1 year that could be obtained through any licensed commercial banks in Sri Lanka, and repayable over a maximum of 6 years.

Apart from that, Sri Lanka Agripreneurs’ Forum requests the government to facilitate to set up an “Agro Innovation Centre”, in Colombo or Gampaha District targeting the development of value-added food products and processed foods for local and export market, Establish cluster level sorting grading and packing centres at district level. Link such centres with district level economic centres and connect with multimodal transport system, which will minimize transportation cost, handling cost and post-harvest losses and allocate one compartment on trains of the following Railway Lines (RL) for the transportation of agricultural produces, in order to reduce transportation cost.

“This initiative is to be carried out via a PPP model, where the Private Sector will set up the cold room in the compartment and manage the operation. This collaboration shall operate on a profit share model between Sri Lanka Railways and the Private entity.”

The forum also emphasised the need to drive Image Building campaign for Agriculture Sector in Sri Lanka similar to ‘SL Tourism’, and ‘ApiWenuwen-Api’ campaigns.

 


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