Sri Lanka's vegetable production has been increased considerably in the past few months enhancing its supply to major markets and economic centres in the island resulting in a surplus and drop in prices, farmers and trader associations said. Officials of the Joint Farmers' Association pointed out that the low country vegetables are available in plenty and farmers have received a bountiful harvest as a result of favourable weather conditions, the planting of quality seeds, government's intervention in home gardening projects, fertilizer subsidy and the increase in production in North East areas.
Prices of vegetables including Brinjals, Cucumber, Cabbage, Sweet Potato and Batu have dropped significantly over the past few days, as large stocks of vegetables received from areas in the South, North and East after the harvesting period. On the other hand farmers and those who are engaged in home gardening have cultivated similar varieties of vegetables which give a yield within a couple of months. The Colombo Manning Market received more than 100 tonnes of vegetables per day, during the past few days and it exceeded the demand, they revealed. This included more than 15 lorry loads of vegetables a day from Nuwara Eliya, Kandy and Dambulla districts with the surplus resulting in declining prices in the market, they revealed.
Vegetable prices in the wholesale market have come down and a kilo of beans has dropped to Rs. 30 while a kilo of cucumber and ladies fingers declined to Rs. 15 and Rs. 20, respectively, traders said. It is estimated that Sri Lanka's annual production of vegetables is 700,000 tons.
The required estimated per capita consumption of vegetables is 75 kg per person per annum, they said.
Vegetables are being cultivated in 1.5 million family units in the island at present under the government's "Divineguma programme. These families cultivate five varieties of vegetables at their home gardens for their consumption and the excess is sold at the nearby market. This was another reason for the drop in demand and the increase in supply, Economic Development Ministry officials said. They aim to increase this number of domestic units in 2012 to 2.5 million, they added.
During the first step the target was one million families. However, the ministry was able to increase this number up to 1.5 million family units due to the enthusiastic response from the public, they said.
Nearly 30 lorry loads of vegetables are sent daily to the Dambulla Economic Centre from rural areas in Anuradhpura and Polpithigama. But the prices of vegetables have gone down drastically. The expenditure for vegetable cultivation is very high but the daily income obtained is very low, farmers in the area complained. A rural village called "Doramadalawa" in Anuradhapura has been transformed to vegetable cultivation area with the assistance of the Bank of Ceylon. Around 134 villagers have turned around their plots of land of 20 to 30 perches each to home gardens cultivated with vegetables, with the financial and technical assistance as well as necessary guidance of the BOC.
These villagers have become vegetable growers with determination, and commitment and their efforts have been begun to bear fruit at present, said Upali Ratnamalala, coordinating officer to this programme from the BoC. These villages sell their excess vegetables at the Dambulla Economic Centre. A lorry is deployed to collect vegetables from these farmers. "Using about 4,000 or 5,000 acres of land in that area we are trying to inculcate the concept of organic agriculture. "We have got the expertise and the water resources for them which were earlier lacking. As a result, the people will be able to cultivate both the 'Yala' and 'Maha' seasons", he said.