Farmers and Agricultural Stakeholders in Sri Lanka Call for Urgent Support | Print edition

Harvest time.

The Sri Lanka Agripreneurs Forum (SLAF), as a professional agribusiness organization representing about 30% of the country’s population, presented a series of recommendations this week to address the challenges arising from foreign exchange shortages. , the fuel crisis and the resulting power shortages.

In a statement, he said agripreneurs and agribusiness at all scales are coming to a halt due to the inability to import agricultural inputs due to unavailability of forex. Power and fuel shortages are hitting agricultural processors very hard, bringing the entire value chain to a standstill. Already, many agribusinesses have drastically scaled back their operations, and eventually many may be forced to close businesses, which will have multiple ripple effects on the wider economy, as national food security will still be drastically hampered to an extent that will not be able to rebound. in the foreseeable future.

The SLAF recommended that the country needs both a short and long-term strategy to deal with the current crisis and to ensure the well-being of the country in
the future.

Short term solutions include,

I. Ensure that farmers continue to receive agricultural inputs without interruption by ensuring that the production of the farming community is not hindered by the current circumstances.

  • This requires actions to ensure the supply of essential inputs such as seeds and specialized fertilizers, necessary for certain crops. Where these inputs require imports, those involved in export farming should have the option of using part of their export earnings for these essential imports.
  • Declare a national cropping plan for each season well in time to ensure that farmers are not faced with marketing crops of their own choosing.
  • SLAF recognizes that commercial agriculture will depend to some extent on imported agricultural inputs and expects policy makers to only encourage imports of high quality agrochemicals and next generation fertilizers.
  • Some allocation of foreign exchange must be made to cater even to those not engaged in export agriculture but considered critical and important with actions to generate these inputs locally within a specified timeframe.
  • In the case of other crops, every effort should be made to provide access to local alternatives of assured quality and in adequate quantities, from suppliers or assistance to generate their own inputs both technically and financially.
  • Any aid provided for fertilizers should be paid in cash to farmers so that they themselves choose the type and quantities of fertilizer used rather than the current practice of centralized fertilizer distribution.

II. Creation of a government advisory body made up of Sri Lankan experts with knowledge and proven ability to generate programs to overcome current problems that will not go away, using local solutions as much as possible. The assistance of Sri Lankan specialists working abroad should be harnessed to help local specialists in areas where their knowledge in other countries might be relevant and useful to local conditions. Many scientists and industry specialists are ready to support the country. SLAF sees the need to reach out to Sri Lankan agriculture/horticulture professionals in other countries for assistance in developing the agriculture industry. Accordingly, the government may select an advisory board or brain trust made up of specialists in Sri Lanka and abroad who wish to contribute.

III. Begin to develop time-targeted policies and strategies to prevent the recurrence of current problems, due to overreliance on external inputs. This policy and strategic planning must be carried out by specialists with a proven track record and not limited to academic qualifications, with wide consultation of stakeholders and provisions for wide dissemination of knowledge to all parties concerned for acceptance with conviction.

Long-term solutions that could
be implemented include,

I. Implement policies developed under short-term objective no. III (above), to ensure non-reliance on external inputs, the price and supply of which are beyond Sri Lanka’s control, placing us in the grip of external price volatility and supply constraints.

II. Focus on improving post-harvest technology to minimize losses and prevent cyclical glut and scarcity of agricultural products. We continued to support the upgrading of existing storage facilities, preferably close to economic centers, to convert them into cold storage facilities using available resources and using idle resources. This could help to resolve large fluctuations in supplies and prices.

III. Develop entrepreneurship among farmers. Promote cultivation of agriculture to meet market demand instead of seeking post-harvest markets leading to gluts and falling prices. This is an essential step to ensure that farming communities in Sri Lanka move beyond their subsistence farming towards a more profit-driven approach. This has a significant potential to contribute to the GDP of the country in a remarkable way through the improvement of agricultural exports and the export of value-added products. Structured financial support and business intelligence should be extended to farmers in a sustainable manner to enable sustainable growth in this regard.

IV. Integrate technology in agriculture and develop AgTech. Innovation has continued to be the key to any nation’s success and Sri Lanka has lagged behind in this regard. Therefore, there is a need for more emphasis on improving the involvement of technology in agriculture and SLAF has continuously highlighted the importance of establishing a “National Resource Planning System”. of agricultural enterprise (ERP)” to bring about these changes while recommending initiatives such as the establishment of an “Agro Innovation Center”. The implementation of such initiatives with the collaboration of the private sector could provide the platform for modernization of the sector.

V. Identify and promote the development of value-added products leading to a culture of high-value agro-industries with strong export potential. Although there are many opportunities for the same based on already grown produce, emphasis should be placed on additional plant species with such recognized potential to be introduced.

VI. Create an agro-industrial base to attract investment and job creation, focusing in particular on major tea, rubber and coconut plantations and any other plantation crops

VII. Develop strategies and action plans to replace hitherto imported food products that can be grown locally to reduce currency flight, which is an easier and faster way to solve balance of payments problems compared to the development of new external markets for agricultural products.

VIII.Provide support to the farming community through knowledge transfer, access to inputs and markets for the produce, rather than subsidies which are unsustainable and have proven unproductive in improving the status of farmers since their subsistence level for several decades.

IX. Organize the retraining of all levels of agriculture offices in the public sector to be able to support the agricultural community with modern agricultural practices in line with the specific agro-ecological conditions prevailing in Sri Lanka instead of the knowledge acquired in other other countries that may be of no use. value in the Sri Lankan context.

X. Government policy decisions to ban the use of chemical fertilizers and pesticides, although relaxed, will prevail in the long term for economic and cost reasons. It is therefore prudent to gradually adopt alternative solutions and indigenous fertilizers and other inputs whose success has been proven by some farmers. This knowledge needs to be collected and disseminated with deep understanding for wider adoption.

XI. Recognize the need for external inputs such as improved seeds and special fertilizers and chemicals for special products and farming techniques. Provide access to these external inputs under strict control, the cost of which can be justified by the resulting products in the export market, until indigenous alternatives can be developed with equal effectiveness.

SLAF firmly believes that a pragmatic approach to revolutionizing the Sri Lankan agricultural sector is crucial to improving the current status of the country and its people. It is important not to revert to outdated practices, but rather to usher in a new era of sustainable and efficient farming practices. The path to get there only requires the expertise, knowledge and network of contacts of smart and committed officials who are readily present in this nation. SLAF’s goal is to bring these people together and harness their ability to formulate short- and medium-term actions, its statement said.

“Through improvements in the agricultural sector, Sri Lanka could emerge from its current state and look to a brighter future by earning its rightful place as a major engine of the economy. It is high time to increase income from agriculture and move beyond dependence on other countries for the resources already available within the country at an age when Sri Lanka can export its agricultural products in larger quantities. This is only possible through proper stewardship of available resources through sincere commitment and dedication to the welfare of the country and its people. Rural farmers are demoralized and rather negatively affected by the unavailability and skyrocketing cost of agricultural inputs. The government, in collaboration with the private sector, should consider ways and means to address the critical issues it faces in retaining the agricultural labor force and securing food production,” he said.

SLAF urges dedicated individuals and resource persons to support the cause of SLAF and provide your expertise and knowledge on building a better nation through improved agriculture.

SLAF also calls on the government to engage with stakeholders and take proactive measures which have been strongly recommended by the agripreneur community and experts to address the current crisis in the country and ensure a better future for all Sri Lankans. .

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