Sustainable policy vital to meet agri sector challenges - Experts | Sunday Observer

Sustainable policy vital to meet agri sector challenges - Experts

5 June, 2021

Sri Lanka’s food security will be threatened due to the agriculture sector facing enormous challenges and the absence of a national plan to address it, said agri-sector experts adding, that there would be dire consequences to self-sufficiency in food in the country if no urgent measures are taken to resuscitate the agriculture sector.

“We see a grim future for food security as a host of issues pertaining to food production have gone unheeded. Farmers who have been clamouring for the supply of fertiliser in time and a permanent solution to the rising pest menace that has gulped a large quantum of yield for years are on the verge of giving up the trade,” an agri-sector expert said.

Farmer organisation heads said last week that a large number of farmers had decided to abandon the occupation since the authorities have turned a deaf ear and a blind eye to their issues. “The authorities are more concerned about issues that could be given second preference. Agriculture, a vital cog in the economy, is in peril as vast swathes of arable land have been abandoned due to the absence of fertiliser and pest control measures to safeguard crops,” a farmer organisation head in Polonnaruwa said. Farmer organisation representatives said the next harvest season will be one of the worst seasons due to a drastic reduction in yield caused by lack of fertiliser application and crop damage by pests. Rice prices have skyrocketed due to scarcity of stocks. The price of a kilogram of samba is in the range of Rs. 200-250 while nadu is in the range of Rs. 120.

The prices of many rice varieties had risen between 15 percent to 30 percent during the year up to April this year, according to data. “It is a shame that the country has fallen to such a pathetic state when it was called the ‘Granary of the East’ during hay days of agricultural prosperity,” a retired official of the Paddy Marketing Board said.

Online orders for rice during the lockdown had been turned down by supermarket chains due to the shortage of stocks.Currently, 95% of the rice produced in Sri Lanka are hybrid varieties. These are harvested using non-organic fertiliser and pesticides which are needed to produce larger harvests with lower costs.

However, traditional rice is gradually making a comeback due to increased global demand for organic food.

However, various views have been expressed on the policy shift to organic farming which is not sustainable given the rising demand for food each year.Countries that went fully organic have not combined application of synthetic fertiliser to meet demand.

“Any policy shift must be given careful thought following consultations with industry experts with adequate time with trial and error methods. A sudden shift may not yield the desired results,” crop scientists and a senior of the University of Peradeniya said.

However, what has been conspicuous is that the policy makers have lost control of prices of food staples and failed to come up with a sustainable national agricultural policy that goes with the times.

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