April 18, 2019

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    Highest maize yield this year, despite ‘Sena’ attack - Minister

    March 24, 2019

    Sri Lanka imports 4,000 metric tonnes of agro-chemicals and 1.2 million metric tonnes of chemical fertilizer every year, Agriculture, Rural Economic Affairs, Livestock Development, Irrigation and Fisheries and Aquatic Resources Development Minister P. Harrison said.Speaking at the committee stage debate of the Budget 2019 in Parliament yesterday when the Expenditure Heads of his Ministry were taken up, Minister Harrison said promoting poison-free cultivation is the need of the hour.

    “We have now banned Glyphosate, but before the ban about 8,000 metric tonnes had been imported.The ban has been relaxed for tea and rubber. Each year, our food gets contaminated with a large quantity of agro-chemicals and chemical fertiliser. Various chemical compounds are being added to the soil as a result. We need to re-think whether we are going to continue this. As same as developing agriculture, we need to promote poison less food.Cultivations in home gardens must be encouraged,” he said.

    With reference to queries on four fishermen in Maldives custody, the minister said his Ministry Secretary jointly with the Foreign Affairs Ministry intervened to get them released. He added that necessary intervention would be made to get their fishing vessels and equipment released.Commenting on the irrigation, the minister also said that water from the Yan Oya project will be released for the next Yala season cultivation in May by President Maithripala Sirisena.

    The minister also said that the Fall Armyworm (‘Sena’ caterpillar) has been controlled successfully, adding that its damage to harvest was about 10 percent. Despite the ‘Sena’ plague, the highest yield of maize was recorded this year, the minister added.

    Glyphosate, jeopardising farmer’s health - Ven.Rathana

    MP Athuraliye Rathana Thera blamed the government and the opposition for importing harmful chemical fertilisers into the country despite the proven harmful effects in using such fertilisers.

    He said the tests done in 2013 on Glyphosate had proved that it contained highly toxic cadmium and arsenic. However, he blamed politicians on both camps for promoting such highly harmful fertilisers and jeopardising the health of the farmers and public with the selfish aim of filling their pockets.

    Joining the committee stage debate in parliament yesterday, he said no farmer has asked for glyphosate. “For the two seasons two million acres is cultivated without any glyphosate earlier. But then we gave them glyphosate. This is being used in the tea sector, but none of the small scale tea estates use it. From Sri Lanka’s tea production 60% is supplied by the small scale tea estates. However, it is the large scale tea estate owners who ask for glyphosate while their contribution is a mere 26% of the production.This chemical is mainly used to eradicate weeds.”

    Ven.Rathana Thera said that in certain States in the US, they have taken action to ban this weedicide and even in India this product is banned in certain states too.

    While Glyphosate was banned in Sri Lanka for a short period, he said that notable changes were observed. “By banning this product in Sri Lanka there were many benefits. One was that the cattle had gracing grounds to feet on as the grass was spared and we were able to restore at least to some extent the damage that was caused by the use of glyphosate for years. It is a proved fact that glyphosate has contributed to the steep increase in chronic kidney disease among the farming communities.”

    Ven.Rathana Thera has been lobbying to deter farmers from using harmful chemical fertilisers and promoting organic farming. “We lobbied for the government to provide the farmers with the cash to purchase their own fertiliser. By this we managed to educate the farmers against purchasing harmful fertilisers. Our programme had reached around 25,000 farmers. However, due to pressure from the opposition as well, the government riveted to issuing fertiliser again instead of the cash. “Why are these politicians so intent on using fertiliser? Around 60% of this fertiliser is urea, which is nitrogen. This is obtained by decomposed leaves and microorganism. So why import? We have plenty of leaves in this country and why can’t we produce the fertiliser here? Urea is mainly imported from places where there are oil deposits and in such places the urea contains large amounts of cadmium and arsenic. This is certainly not suitable for use,” he noted.

    He noted that when fertiliser was to be tested in 2017 it was asked to be tested at sea. “How can they test this fertiliser at sea? Then when the Science and Technology labs tested the fertiliser they found that this cheap fertiliser that was given to the farmers contained high percentages of poisonous substances.The government also plays games as when they give the fertiliser subsidy they estimate the cost as Rs. 50 billion but when they give money to the farmers the cost becomes Rs. 20 billion.What is this scam? They get large commissions through these tenders.”

    Rathana Thera said that it was proved through an experiment with the Agriculture Ministry to prove that there was no added gain or advantage in using this toxic chemical fertilisers. “We did the experiment on 200 acres where on one part we used chemical fertilisers and on the other part we used organic fertilisers. However, there was no difference in the harvest.”

    He urged the government not to directly issue fertiliser to farmers and give them the cash so that they can have a choice whether or not to use chemical fertiliser,” he said, adding that by this the intention was to gradually educate the farmers on the harms in using chemical fertilisers and in time get them accustomed to safe organic farming without using these harmful chemicals.

    Mineral Sands Corp will not be sold - Rishad

    The Government will not sell Lanka Mineral Sands in Pulmudai to any local or foreign entity, Industry and Commerce, Resettlement of Protracted Displaced Persons, Co-operative Development and Vocational Training and Skills Development Minister Rishad Bathiudeen said.

    He was replying JVP Leader Anura Kumara Dissanayake in Parliament yesterday who questioned on media reports on privatising the mineral sands deposit in Pulmudai.

    The minister said tenders were called for an investment to set up a factory to make Titanium dioxide in Sri Lanka for value addition.

    “We have been exporting raw material and if we can do value addition within the country, our profits can be multiplied.We will give the land to put up the factory.This project has nothing to do with shares of Mineral Sands Ltd. The government ownership will remain the same. Twelve parties expressed intent for the project but only two companies vied in the final round. A Cabinet Appointed Committee is handling the negotiations,” he said.

    He pointed out that there was Rs. 300 million in fixed deposits of the Lanka Mineral Sands when he assumed duties, and this amount has now increased to Rs 3,000 million.

    He said a certain Pradeshiya Sabha member created problems when a fence was to be constructed to protect the mineral sand mound in Pulmudai. “There are one million tonnes of sand at this place and politicians are involved in stealing sand. That is why we tried to erect a fence,” he said.

    MP Anura Dissanayake queried whether the Government is in discussion to sell or privatise the Lanka Mineral Sands. “Pulmudai mineral deposit extending from Mullaitivu to Nilaveli is an invaluable asset containing ilmenite, rutile, zircon, sillimanite, monazite and garnet. In 1992, the Mineral Sands Corporation was converted to a state owned enterprise as Lanka Mineral Sands Limited. There were reports in the media that the Government is planning to sell this institution,” MP Dissanayake said.

    Farmers should be encouraged to have crops insured - Duminda

    Former Agriculture Minister Duminda Dissanayake commended efforts taken by Agriculture Minister P. Harrison to uplift the country’s agriculture sector.

    Dissanayake extended his support despite being an Opposition MP. “Although we are in the Opposition, it does not restrict us from commending what is right as much as we criticise what is wrong. Some think that if we are in the Opposition we should oppose everything that the government does. But it does not have to be that way for our generation and we should be able to see what is right and what is wrong. Hence, no matter what some may feel, I would like to extend my fullest support for the development of agriculture in the country.”

    Dissanayake was expressing his views during the committee stage budget debate in parliament yesterday when the expenditure heads of the Minister of Agriculture, Rural Economic Affairs, Livestock Development, Irrigation and Fisheries and Aquatic Resources Development was taken up for debate in parliament yesterday.

    “Some ask me if I want to join the UNP, say to them no, but we formed a good relationship with them over the recent past and we lost that animosity and anger.What we intend is to compete fiercely during the elections and irrespective of who wins or who loses, we want all parties to unite in working for and building this country for a better future for our future generations. Dissanayake extended support to the Agriculture Minister in carrying out the programmes that would be beneficial to the country,” he noted.

    Dissanayake commended the Agriculture Minister for carrying forward the projects commenced by the previous government, while some of the programmes have been continued even under the same names.

    MP Dissanayake expressed satisfaction over the implementation of a proper mechanism to purchase paddy. However, he noted that there were some complaints that there is a delay in payments and urged the Agriculture Minister to take measures to rectify this issue. “Most of the farmers are in debt and they sometimes don’t even wait to dry their harvest properly prior to selling it fast at a lower rate due to their urgent need for cash. However, now that the government is purchasing the paddy from the farmers, it would be helpful if the payment process is done without any delays,” he said.

    Commenting on the insurance scheme initiated by him while he was the Agriculture Minister, Dissanayake said he was pleased that this programme is being continued. “However, we also had an idea to extend this insurance scheme for large scale farmers as well. It does not necessarily mean that the government has to provide this insurance, but these farmers should be encouraged to obtain insurance cover for their crops. This way whether it rains or there is drought, their crops would be insured and it won’t be a burden on the government. We should encourage and build this practice among farmers as a habit so that the farmers also know that even though he spends a small amount for the insurance cover, it would be beneficial to them,” Dissanayake said.

    He also suggested that in keeping with modern technology, to introduce a mobile App that will use drones to measure and survey the farms so that in the event there is some disease affecting their crops, it would be easier to pin-point the affected area and remedial measures could be taken without delay.

    He also requested the Agriculture Minister to set up the seed production centre which was proposed to begin in Mahailluppallama with assistance from Bangladesh for the production of seeds within the country instead of spending billions in importing seeds from foreign countries. “I believe this agreement is currently with the Attorney General’s Department and I urge the Agriculture Minister to give priority to implementing this project

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