A recently concluded survey on local banana cultivation shows that small-scale farmers are inhibted on account of their poverty, lack of proper price structure, irrigation land holdings, draught power and regular financial flow.
A team of scientists attached to the Open University of Sri Lanka did the survey. They said banana farmers in the Hambantota district, in particular, face these constraints more markedly that others. In Hambantota, a major shift in terms of choice of crops to be cultivated, an unequal distribution in the farm structures and land ownership has been emerging in the recent years.
According to the researchers, a number of small-scale farmers do not have access to local commercial banks and the opportunity to obtain bank loans, without govt. support, is limited.
"Most banks seek tangible ability of these farmers to repay loans,"the researchers said.
Some farmers mortgage lands and obtain loans from village level credit providers, who charge high rates of interest.
This particular segment of farmers have to pay exorbitant interest on loans secured. The government and its agents do not have a mechanism to end their economical grievances, researchers said.
Researchers suggest that the authorities implement early an easy rural credit system to assist the farmers.
The study revealed that banana cultivation is more lucrative as it has the capacity to produce higher economic surpluses and also a steady flow of income.
According to the study, a few farmers who operate large-scale holdings successfully indulge in banana cultivation. On the other hand, farmers cultivating small banana plots have not been able to make much headway. The ultimate outcome of the process is the creation of a landless class of small-holders, who have leased out their plots to the richer cultivators to end up as paid labourers on their own land.
Meanwhile, agrarian officials of the Hambantota area said a large number of small-scale farmers is perennially suffering as a consequence of the lack of infrastructure and prevailing economic barriers, to which the relevant authorities are unresponsive to.
Should the authorities develop better infrastructure, small-scale farmers would never need to lease out their land, officials said.
They also highlighted marketing problems faced by small-scale farmers and stressed the need to eliminate the ubiquitoius middleman menace. The also proposed setting up a smooth marketing system and an easy loan system like the Grameen concept operating in Bangladesh.