Diverisifaction of agricultural crop is a clear necessity of the present day in a bid to be on par with Sri Lanka’s regional counterparts, a top US official stated recently.
Chief Guest USAID Mission Director Rebecca Cohn pointed out that successive governments have only concentrated on paddy cultivation and as such it was high time for the government to concentrate on other agriculture products.
“Agriculture in Sri Lanka has not kept pace with the rest of the region. Recent studies have shown that small farmers do not have sufficient returns from their output. This is not surprising considering that in spite of 34% of the Sri Lankan population being employed in agriculture only 17% of the GDP comes from it. FAO statistics show that agriculture produce has remained the same in Sri Lanka for the past 15 years,” she said.
This was stated that the National Agriculture Council (NAC) AGM during which it urged to participate more in the agriculture policy formulating process with the government to enable for private sector participation that would give bigger returns to rural farmers and result in crop diversification.
She insisted that reduction of poverty and economic development across the board would depend on how well Sri Lankans can adjust to the changing market and make use of new technologies to link rural farmers with the larger national economy. Stressing that fiscal subsidies in fertilizer have so far only managed to place more burdens on the Lankan economy Ms. Cohn advocated more involvement of the private sector in agriculture.
“The NAC has a duty to lobby with the government to create a more business enabling environment that is driven by the private sector. USAID is keenly interested in working in conflict areas.
The East has opened up as a good opportunity for fresh investments and we should work on developing it further. The Western Province continues to lead the development scales with the Eastern Province lagging behind at 4.7% and the North is probably less,” she said.
Detailing the NAC plan for the next two years newly elected Chairman Sarath de Silva admitted that the escalating costs hamper farmers and have driven away new investors. However, he pledged to continue networking rural farmers and developing new markets such as India. Mr. de Silva also called for the improvement of poultry farming and dairy.