Sri Lanka: Food Crisis – Field Note 3

 In a situation where 2/3 of the annual rice requirement of 2.5 million tons is expected from the Maha season, it was noticed that the paddy harvest had decreased by about 40% in the year 2021-2022. It was noticed that the harvest of other crops also had decreased by a similar percentage.

This series is based on the excerpts of the first report of the Sub-Committee in identifying short and medium-term programmes related Economic Stabilization of the National Council tabled in the Parliament by Patali Champika Ranawaka as the Chair of the Sub-Committee.  Composition of the Sub-Committee in identifying short and medium-term programmes related Economic Stabilization of the National Council,  Patali Champika Ranawaka (Chair), Naseer Ahamed, Tiran Alles, Sisira Jayakody, Sivanesathurai Santhirakanthan, Wajira Abeywardana, A. L. M. Athaullah, Rishad Bathiudeen, Palani Thigambaram, Mano Ganesan, M. Rameshwaran; all are members of the house representing various political parties – editors

Background

Following were considered as two basic criteria for Food Security:

Availability

Affordability

Here, it was observed that in comparison to the Maha season of year 2020-2021, the paddy harvest of the Maha season of year 2021-2022 had decreased by 1.2 million tons (700,000 tons of rice). In a situation where 2/3 of the annual rice requirement of 2.5 million tons is expected from the Maha season, it was noticed that the paddy harvest had decreased by about 40% in the year 2021-2022. It was noticed that the harvest of other crops also had decreased by a similar percentage.

At the same time, it was reported that the prices of paddy and rice had increased by 100% and the prices of other vegetables and fruits had increased by over 100% in year 2022 in comparison to year 2021.

Now, sometimes it rains in the drought season, but the rainy season is like a drought,” says Wajeratna Sudusinghe (above). Oxfam-funded research suggests an approach that could improve the profitability and environmental sustainability of paddy farming.[ Photo: Oxfam]

The key issues identified are as follows:

Farmers giving up farming.

It has been observed that out of the approximately 1.65 million farmer families, around 80% are small holders cultivating lands less than 2 hectares in extent.

The shortage of raw material required for cultivation, increase of production cost, reduced harvest and relatively low income, uncertain future and attitude issues have been the primary factors here. Even though the ban imposed on chemicals on 06th of May 2021 was lifted on the 9th of November 2021, the difficulty of obtaining inorganic fertilizer still remains. As 94% of the farmers use machinery such as tractors, they have been affected by the price of fuel, shortage of spare parts, halted importation of machines etc. The issues related to

shortage of weedicides, insecticides and imported seeds and exorbitant prices and the quality of seeds were also identified.

Proposals and Solutions

Following 3 issues were identified to be addressed immediately.

The damage caused to cultivations by wild animals, damage caused during harvesting, transporting and marketing and wastage of food.

The legal provisions to minimize damage to harvests, reestablishing agriculture extension services and using technology for harvest conservation (promoting freezing and dehydration) were identified.

It was identified that state intervention was not sufficient and efficient in purchasing of harvest and distribution of food and providing incentives to the small and medium entrepreneurs to control the monopoly of the private sector (paddy and rice)

Through the report on fertilizer utilization, it became evident that the new ratio (70:30) for inorganic and organic fertilizer inputs was not practical.

At the same time the danger of the paddy harvest getting destroyed as a result of not receiving sufficient stocks of urea (requirement is 123,000 metric tons) for the season yet, the decision taken not to use TSP (60,000 metric tons), not receiving MOP (36,000 metric tons) and the season being protracted causing the harvest to be caught in the north-east monsoon was emphasized.

It was emphasized that even though US $ 110 million from the World Bank, US $ 40 million from the Asian Development Bank, US $ 40 million from US Aid etc. were provided, the money received (including the Indian Credit Line) had not been utilized in a regular manner for importing fertilizer due to irregularity in procurement etc.

The situation of not receiving the fertilizer requirement of the plantation industry sector (annual requirement of 96 metric tons of urea for tea cultivation) was also emphasized. It was also observed that the area that could be brought under maize cultivation had been limited due to lack of

required seeds and fertilizer and that it had affected chicken and egg production and the livestock industry in general.

It was evident that at least US $ 450 million was required for the seeds, fertilizer, and inputs sufficient for one year for the farming and plantation fields. It was identified that it is essential to open up the opportunity to provide the raw materials required by the exporters in addition to the foreign grants for this.

It is suggested that an expeditious and systematic process is required for procuring chemicals.

It is emphasized that a systematic process is required for certifying the standards of the chemicals and seeds.

It is suggested that government intervention and a systematic distribution methodology are required to control the prices of fuel and inputs.

It is suggested that it is essential to create a digital platform for fuel, input, and harvest as well as disseminate that information among farmers and sellers.

It is suggested that the process of providing kerosene oil to the fishing community should be streamlined and the fish farming system should be popularized

It is suggested that special tax relief be sought in order to keep farmers, planters, and agro-producers in the field and motivate them, and that this be done through a systematic discussion.

Source Sri Lanka Parliament 

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