SL Farmers going to withdraw from farming very soon

Almost all the governments since independence had been talking about protecting local farmers by stabilizing the agricultural industry,

such hopes have withered away over time. This has caused the innocent farmers to suffer under the weight of tremendous hardships. Most of the farmers who talked to us said that they will be compelled to withdraw from farming very soon as the government has failed to provide them any form of security for their vocation. It is a pity that these farmers, who had inherited this valuable vocation since many generations, being forced to give up their heritage due to the negligence of the authorities. There is no doubt as the extinction of farmers in the future if this chain is broken at this time. It is already evident from the opinions of the children who are living in these farming communities.

We talks to reverent ministers and we discuss this matter to find out Yahapalana solutions. Minister for Primary Industries Daya Gamage says that under the new plan of the government aid will be granted to promote exports. However, in conflicting note, Minister for Trade Union Relations RavindraSamaraweera says that even though discussions were held with Minister Daya Gamage, still there are problems regarding initiating export procedures for crops such as potatoes. According to Minister Dya Gamage, there is a complex procedure regarding the exports on flowers, fruits and other crops. However, he says that the matter is being studied at the moment. He also says that the government is also looking into efforts made by other countries to add value to export grade crops. Disclosing the latest information on the matter, the Minister further says that the World Bank has come forward to assist farmers who are planning to enter into the business of exporting their harvest. The Minister says that there is a possibility of granting financial aid under this project. He says that the information on the matter can be obtained from the ministry. Minister Samaraweera also says that Minister DayaGamage has called the unions to discuss the matter of the farmers and to find a lasting solution for the problem.

The collapse of local agriculture that provides the life blood to the country is going to be a deadly blow to the entire consumer population in the country. If the local agricultural industry grinds into a halt, there would be no other option than importing food items from overseas, under tremendous taxes and undue influences. It will ultimately take our independent away. It will undoubtedly become a problem that would affect the entire community. Recently the government announced the year 2017as the year to eradicate poverty. Under this initiative, the Ministry of Agriculture has taken steps to initiate various programs to cover different areas in local agriculture. But the farmers seem to be skeptical about these new initiatives as they correctly point out, various other initiatives that had been introduced by previous government had not been able to live up to their standards, ending as mere "talk shows".

However, the plight of the farmers in Welimada is no laughing matter. Today these farmers have been compelled to wait helplessly while their crops and farmlands are being ruined before their own eyes. Their misfortune has reached such a level that nowadays many of these farmers cannot even earn an income that would cover the transportation cost of bringing their crops to the economic centers. Today the price of 1 kg Cabbage has dropped to a whopping 6 Rupees. And the farmers are expected to cover the production costs, packing costs, labor costs and even the transportation costs from just 6 rupees a kilogram. In Welimada, the price of potatoes and Yams have fallen to Rs. 80 per kg. The prices of other crops have also declined such that Carrots 20 Rupees per kg, Leeks, Rs.18 per kg etc. With an increased harvest, the prices of these crops have started to free-fall. According to our findings, there are several reasons for this unusual increase in production. They include the high quality of the fertilizers that have been distributed by the government, the differences of the new hybrid seeds that had been distributed by the government, the lack of diversification in cultivation among farmers. The inability of the farmers to adapt to new farming techniques. Since many of these farmers are used to carry out the same cultivations with hybrid seeds, the harvest has grown unnecessarily. If there had been a proper coordination among these farming communities to regulate these farming techniques, then these problems could have been averted. Furthermore, many of the programs that were initiated by the government with the help of the department of agriculture to counter the drought and the potential famine have also not reached the grassroots levels of the farming communities in Welimada. It has also forced many farmers to opt for other crops than paddy cultivations finally resulting in a high increase in other crops. Since many farmers are reluctant to try alternative crops the problem has become more complex.

Creating a lucrative market for the farmers to sell their crops is no easy task. But we hope that the farmers in Welimada area would be given the necessary training and skills to meet up this challenge. When we consider the potato and yams industry in the country, almost 95% of it is concentrated around Welimada. Hence it has become the largest producer of Yams and potatoes in the local market. Hence we went to Welimada to witness the plight faced by these farmers first hand.

During our discussions with the farmers, it was clear to us that they are still heavily relied upon traditional farming methods they had inherited from their previous generations. The government has failed to educate these farmers way to maximize their revenue by experimenting on new methods of farming. However, here the responsibility to raise the awareness of the farmers is vested upon agricultural advisors, Agriculture Services officials, Samurdhi officials, and GS officials. But the farmers complain that these advisors and other agricultural officials are not taking their jobs seriously. But responding to these allegations, the Minister in charge of the Welimada area, Ravindra Samaraweera says that the officials are doing their utmost to serve the farmers. Pointing out that these farmers are hardly attending any meeting or workshop organized by the agriculture advisors, the Minister says that the blame should be shared by everyone.

Minister for Agriculture Duminda Dissanayake said ,
We have discussed this matter with farmers unions in NuwaraEliya and Bandarawela areas. We hope to call all the stakeholders again to discuss the matter at length. Walimadafarmers association is also included in these talks. With the draught the need for insurance policies have also become increased. Already the farmers have been introduced to a harvest insurance policy. But there is less participation from the farmers’ side for these policies. We are currently carrying out a program to produce our own seeds. In the future we hope to involve farmers in the procedure. So it is better for all of us to work together to achieve this common goal." .

There are many factories in Sri Lanka that are importing fruits and vegetables to make their products such as sauces and jams. If the government could implement a procedure to provide these companies the required fruits and vegetables from local farmers, then they would not be able to discard a large amount of their harvest. Since most of these companies have denied accepting products from local farmers due to the lack of quality and the low production, it can be averted by implementing a proper management procedure. By equipping the local farmers with the up to date technology and the knowledge, we could undoubtedly improve the quality and the quantity of domestic agriculture.


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