ISSN: 1391 - 0531
Sunday May 4, 2008
Vol. 42 - No 49

Low-quality seed adds to farmers’ woes

By Damith Wickramasekara and Himal Kotelawala

Aggravating the current rice crisis is the problem of sub-standard paddy seed now in use. Farmers say the seed is slow-growing, and have expressed fears of a disaster at the next harvest. Upul Kumara, president of the All Ceylon Farmers’ Association, told The Sunday Times that the seed paddy was obtained during a rainy season and was therefore “of low quality”. “They are sub-standard,” he said.

“If this seed is used, expect a low harvest. Moreover, these paddy plants will be vulnerable to disease. We can expect another rice crisis because low-quality seed paddy was used,” he said.

Polonnaruwa Government Agent Ranjith Wijenayaka said the same sub-standard seed paddy was sown on land belonging to the Agriculture Department and that the yield was “very low”. “This low-quality seed doesn’t grow quickly enough,” he said. Meanwhile, reports of rice shortages continue to come in from different parts of the country. There have been also been reported cases of rice traders hiding stocks in their stores.

Trade, Marketing Development, Co-operatives and Consumer Services Minister Bandula Gunawardena gave a reassurance that any complaints received about persons withholding rice stocks would be reviewed by the Consumer Protection Authority.

“We are not concerned about who owns the rice mill. Please let us know of such cases. We will definitely look into them,” he said. The minister said a shipment of rice from Myanmar was being delayed because of bad weather at sea. He predicted a significant drop in the price of rice with the arrival of the shipment.

“If we really do have a rice shortage, it would be only in October and November,” he said. Meanwhile, JVP Parliamentarian S. K. Subasinghe told The Sunday Times that the Government had not properly planned its introduction of price control measures for rice, and as a result farmers were forced to sell paddy to mill owners at a loss of Rs. 10 per kilo.

“The farmers have stopped supplying paddy to the market and that’s why we have a rice shortage,” he said. Upul Kumara said rice producers were confused by the Government’s price control measures. “This will have a big impact on rice sales,” he said. “Mill owners, traders and farmers are at a loss as to what to do about this.

If the Government loses control of this price control, the price of paddy will go up and farmers will delay supplying paddy to the market,” he said. S. P. Sham, president of the Essential Food Commodities Importers and Traders Association, told The Sunday Times that the association did not have sufficient stock for now. “Currently, we don’t have a big stock,” he said.

“The daily stocks we receive finish the same day. We do not get enough rice to store. We expect this to change in the future,” he said.

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