We produce far in excess of domestic rice requirement
The Agriculture Development Ministry has designated Ampara, Mannar,
Hambantota and Polonnaruwa as rice export zones in the efforts to
achieve target of exporting 200,000 mt by 2015 as pledged by President
Mahinda Rajapaksa, said Agriculture Development Ministry Secretary
Wijeratna Sakalasooriya in an interview with the Sunday Observer.
Sakalasooriya the former Government Agent, Galle and former additional
secretary to the Agriculture Development Ministry assumed duties as the
secretary to the Agriculture Development Ministry recently. He said that
steps have already been taken to cultivate appropriate rice varieties in
Excerpts of the interview:
Minister Mahinda Yapa
Q: What is the country's annual rice requirement. Have we ever
A: Sri Lanka is at present self-sufficient in rice due to the
development of the agricultural sector. The country's annual requirement
is little over 400,000 mt. Last year's harvest was well over this
Q: What is the progress of "Export Rice" programme launched on
the directive of President Mahinda Rajapaksa.
A: There is already a lucrative export market for rice. Rice
varieties which have medicinal value such as Heenati, Suvadal,
Pachchaperumal, Veda Heenati and Kuruluthuda have been selected as
ideally suited for the export zones. In the first phase of the program
rice will be exported to the Middle Eastern and European markets.
The government provides all assistance to the farmers and the private
sector as well to boost the export drive. International awareness
program on the medicinal values of Sri Lanka's traditional rice will
also be launched soon.
Q: This time there is a bountiful harvest according to the
provincial reports. Is that the position?
A: The favourable climate during the 'Maha Season' was one
main reason for the present harvest.
The national agricultural development programs and the assistance
provided to the farmers facilitated the cultivation of abandoned paddy
fields during the previous 'Yala' and 'Maha' seasons. Except for Sri
Lanka no other country have supplied fertilizer on subsidised rates. Sri
Lanka's annual fertilizer subsidy bill amounts to over Rs.5,000 billion.
Q: How far the Agriculture Ministry's compost fertilizer
A: This programme and its popularization network is making
satisfactory progress. Farmers are well aware of the value of compost
fertilizer for rice and other crops.
The Wayamba compost fertilizer development program in Pannala
conducts regular training programs aimed at motivating farmers and
farmer societies to use compost fertilizer. According to scientific
research compost fertilizer can be substituted only upto 25 percent for
This is being done in Moneragala, Hambantota, Polonnaruwa and
Q: Since Sri Lanka spends its valuable foreign exchange to
import fruits such as apples, grapes and oranges. Has not the
Agriculture Ministry launched any program to improve local fruit
A: People have no knowledge of the nutritional value of local
fruits such as mangoes, guava, banana, papaya and other varieties.
Imported fruits such as apples, grapes, peaches, pears and oranges are
highly contaminated with chemicals. Imported fruits take a long time to
reach consumers. A new project to upgrade and popularise fruit
cultivation was launched recently. Three year development project which
is headed by a Senior Administrative Officer who had conducted research
on fruits will change the present consumption pattern of local fruits.
Novel methods of fruit cultivation, short term fruit crops post harvest
procedures and a scheme to popularise local fruits will be introduced
under the new fruit promotion and research project.
Q: A large extent of lands have been cultivated in the North
and East recently. What is the contribution for the 'Maha' harvest from
A: North and East farmers reaped bumper harvest. They have
brought all cultivable lands under the plough. No doubt that a larger
portion of the country's red onion and dry chillies requirement will be
supplied by Northern and Eastern farmers very soon.
Q: What is the progress of the cultivation of pulses?
A: We shall stop import of green gram, cowpea, udu, tala, and
peanuts by the end of this year. A crash program to cultivate pulses has
been launched in Anuradhapura, Moneragala, Hambantota, Ampare,
Mullaitivu and Vavuniya districts. Assistance will also be provided to
the cultivators to ensure the success of the project.