It is high time that farmers rise against organised racket As pointed out by Akash Widanapathirana in the article titled ‘Prices rise–farmers and consumers suffer in middleman’s tyranny’ in the Sunday Times of November 5 it is the middleman’s tyranny that hits both the farmers as well as the consumers. As is rightly said by [...]


Letters to the Editor


It is high time that farmers rise against organised racket

Farmers are invariably played out by middlemen when they bring their produce to the market. Pic by Kanchana Ariyadasa

As pointed out

by Akash Widanapathirana in the article titled ‘Prices rise–farmers and consumers suffer in middleman’s tyranny’ in the Sunday Times of November 5 it is the middleman’s tyranny that hits both the farmers as well as the consumers.

As is rightly said by a leading farmer “the middlemen receive thousands of kilograms of vegetables and fruits every day. They make huge profits from commissions virtually from nothing.”

A farmer takes his produce to the market with the hope of getting a fair price and the  consumer goes to the market to buy his requirements which will be the farmers’ reasonable  price. Does it happen?

There is a well organised racket in every market where the farmer is never allowed to sell direct to the consumer and the consumer is never allowed direct contact with the farmer.

What happens is there is a set of men flexing their muscles forcing the farmers to approach them  to dispose of the produce to  a retail vendor or other wholesale purchasers at a price determined by them. The vendor pays his purchase price plus the middleman’s commission and the consumer pays the selling price by retailer which includes the farmers’ loss of the choicest of the produce as well. The strong man gets his commission in the form of the choicest of the produce brought (vegetables and fruits) and commission from the retailer.

This set of strongmen enter the market early in the morning. They set out from home with nothing (produce or money) and intervene using their organised thuggery and take away pieces of the choicest of the produce brought by the farmer and get a commission from the retailer for arranging the deal. It is not only the farmer’s price imposed by this middlemen, the amount sold to the retailer is minus the portion taken as commission. This “robbed”  produce in due course will swell into a substantial amount, they dispose to the sellers or restaurateurs whose liaison they have  built up as part of their trade tactics/practices.

The bulk purchasers from the farmers pay a pittance as the farm gate price and transport them to the markets. They become the wholesalers, the transporters and suppliers to the retailers. The difference between the farm gate price and ultimate price paid by the consumer has no bearing on the cost of production, actual transport cost  etc,the real factors determining the economic activities. This bulky difference is  what the middlemen realise as sale of the produce taken from  the farmers commissions paid by the retailers and the lion share of  what the consumer pays at the end becomes the windfall  for the middlemen’s tyranny.

It is high time the farmers organise themselves to resist them and the local bodies ban these men who are neither sellers nor buyers but are intervening by sheer force of organised thuggery.

This is a serious problem that the state has to look into as another facet of the factors contributing to the escalating cost of living.

Do these middlemen  have political clout as well that nobody dares to question their illicit intervention?

R.Suntharalingam  Urumpirai

Wake up before biological crooks take the rest of our rich biodiversity away

At a recent meeting of the “Lanka Nature Conservationists” the dangerous situation of crooks stealing (Biotheft) and pirating (Biopiracy) of national biological resources was highlighted by Samantha Gunasekara and Jagath Gunawardana, experts in nature and environment protection.

Biotheft is the unauthorised export of the different components of indigenous biodiversity whilst Biopiracy is the gaining of exclusive monopoly rights over the biological material of one country by individuals, institutions or companies of other countries, thus denying the rights of the country of origin.

According to the information provided at the meeting, biopiracy was initiated by foreign invaders of this country taking away illegally our rich biodiversity including pearls. As revealed in the patent databases of the USA, European Patent Office (EPO), Australia, New Zealand, Japan and WIPO, Sri Lanka has been a victim of biopiracy.  These patents include Streptosporangiumfragilis, Micromonospora species, Exacum (Binara), Pila, Kothalahimbutu, Karawila, Gammalu, Cobra venom, Cinnamon, Kekuna, Gotukola, Masbedda, Sadikka, Kohomba, Weniwalgeta, Niyangala and Batukarawila, among others.  In some cases even associated traditional knowledge has been covered by the patent. New emerging areas such as biomedicals from the oceans pose a serious biopiracy situation with regard to marine invertebrates and sea algae.

Biopiracy can cause serious damage to a country as a result of depletion of rare species ending in extinction, loss of due revenue through trade related to biological resources, loss of endemic species, loss of ecological balance, genetic drift and habitat destruction and the overall damage to the environment.

What should we do to control biopiracy? There needs to be proper legal mechanisms in place to encourage access and benefit sharing, and for collaborative projects based on strong legal agreements, to impose severe penalties on offenders and to develop proper monitoring systems at export points.  Moreover, we need to support and facilitate local scientists to enter this modern technological era, identify valuable genes, clone them and use the products for the benefit of the people of this country while also patenting the genes and products, without delay.

We are rich in endemic species including 894 species of Angiosperms (flowering plants), 49 species of Pteridophytes (non-flowering plants), 50 species of Fresh water fish, 50 species of Fresh water crabs, 33 species of Resident birds and 21 species of Mammals(National Red List of threatened Fauna & Flora, 2012).  We have more than 2500 traditional rice varieties, a large number of traditional vegetables, fruits, wild flowering plants and thousands of marine organisms and of course our traditional medicinal plants. They have millions of untapped valuable genes yet to be identified, cloned and used for the production of compounds for industrial purposes such as in pharmaceuticals, nutraceuticals, cosmetics, confectionary etc.

Among our traditional rice varieties are Kaluheenati, Suduheenati, Kuru wee, Niyan wee, El wee, Hetada wee, Rath el, Suwandel, Mawee, Kuruluthuda, Maharajah, Gunaratna, Manamalaya, Herath, Muthmanikam, Molligoda, Masuran, Kalubala wee, Jamis wee, Ruwanraththaran, Mas samba, Kannimurunga, Dik wee, Dostaraheenati, Yakada wee and Kahata wee and thousands of others harbouring thousands of valuable genes.

The number and qualities of medicinal plants endemic to Sri Lanka are too numerous to list here.

The untapped wild plants that have beautiful flowers can be developed using modern biotechnology into ornamentals that can be exported.  The traditional local vegetables and fruits (dampara, beti, meeamba and papaya varieties among many others) must be multiplied using modern technology.

We constantly boast that Sri Lanka is a biodiversity “hot spot” containing millions of yet untouched valuable genes.  However, we have not identified and cloned a single gene from our biodiversity “hot spot”.  Individual scientists/teams have done related work but what we need is a national plan with strategies, activities and intended outputs. It should also include recording of traditional knowledge.

The Budget has ignored the direct use of our rich biodiversity for economic development.  Moreover, it has not directly allocated any funds for the development of wasa, wisaneti organic agriculture in our country.  The rich biological diversity together with traditional knowledge can be used to produce biopesticides, bioherbicides, biofertilizer, and compost that are essential for developing organic farming in our country.

What we need is to wake up  and see reality and establish a National Plan (National Centre for Genomic Research supported by a Presidential Fund with Presidential Awards?) for the judicious use of our biodiversity without delay, before biological crooks take the rest of our rich biodiversity away!

 Prof. Athula Perera  Via email

Shame on you politicians

After massive damage had been caused at Gintota, to people’s lives, property and morale,  the Muslim politicians visiting the  place, having meetings and expressing their views and promises is – to say the least -  shameful.

Where were they when the problem was brewing, when the damage was being inflicted by planned group of thugs from outstations? When the social media was giving details ball by ball, with live videos and audios, what were the politicians doing? Their phone numbers are regularly circulated by social media as a long, long list but how come none of them could be contacted during the crisis? It is not as if it happened in the dead of the night.  And this is not the first or second time such “coincidences” of the phones of all the politicians going non- functional at times of crisis happened.

Having gone through the Aluthgama crisis, and many more attacks on shops, places of worship and individuals, still the reactions of the politicians come always too late.

Why? Are they scared to face the mob? Are they powerless to wake up the powers that be? These are questions the people ask – not unfairly.

Enough is enough.  It’s time the politicians rise to the occasion as and when the calamity is happening not long later after the dust has settled. When a few lives are lost. When irreparable damage is done. It’s time every politician set up hot lines – preferably more then one at each ministry – to receive warnings when any trouble is brewing in any part of the country. It’s time the politicians give up their beauty sleep once in a blue moon to attend to the crisis before it happens.

It’s time people demanded that politicians protect and save the people who voted for them. After all, they did come to power by promising a better tomorrow. When is that tomorrow due?

 Dr. Mareena Thaha Reffai  Dehiwela

Could the Pakistan High Commission please release a  picture of this statue?

The Sunday Times last week carried a fascinating newsitem of a 1,700 year-old “Sleeping” Buddha from an ancient Buddhist site in Pakistan.

This Buddha in Parinibbana is a massive 48 feet long. Alas! there is no picture of this fantastic sculpture. Sri Lanka’s Buddhists, scholars and pilgrims, will be grateful to the Pakistan High Commission if it could publish a picture of this Buddhist masterpiece.



Share This Post


Advertising Rates

Please contact the advertising office on 011 - 2479521 for the advertising rates.