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Maithripala Let Us Down, Say Paddy Farmers

By Camelia Nathaniel

The paddy farmers are frustrated and disgruntled with the present government as well as they feel that they have been let down by president Sirisena as well. Speaking to The Sunday Leader the National Organizer of the All Ceylon Farmers’ Federation (ACFF) said that when Maithripala Sirisena was appointed as the president they were very happy as he was from the paddy country and that he would at least take up their issues and provide solutions to the grievances of the farmers. However he said that they have lost all faith in the present government as well, as the farmers feel that they have been let down once again.

There are several issues in the paddy purchasing process as well that have not been resolved so far. Although the government had stated prior to the election as well as during the budget that the certified price of a kilo of paddy was at Rs. 50, they did not specify the type of paddy that they were purchasing at that price. “Later they said that they would purchase Keeri samba at Rs 50, other samba rice at Rs 45 and Nadu at Rs 40. We feel that this was a gimmick by them to hoodwink the people.

However when I asked minister Gamini Jayawickrema Perera  he said that all Samba varieties will be purchased at Rs. 50 and Nadu at Rs. 40. The Ministry of Food Security said that the process of purchasing paddy from the farmers had already commenced,” said Karunaratne.

However Minister Perera was reported as saying that a cabinet decision was made on the 18th to purchase a kilogram of Nadu rice for Rs.45. The minister added that a kilogram of Keeri Samba will be purchased at Rs.50 and the purchasing will commence following a function in Nikaweratiya from Thursday.

He added that, for the first time in Sri Lanka, paddy will be purchased at the government stipulated price all over Sri lanka using over 180 paddy storage facilities in the country.

Over the years the farmers have been fighting to get the government to give a stipulated price for paddy and to legalise that. However Karunaratne said that during the last presidential elections when the previous government agreed to pay Rs. 40 per kilo of paddy, the Maithripala regime wanted to do better and promised the farmers Rs 50 per kilo. “But there is no point in promising the farmers even Rs 75 per kilo of their paddy if the government does not have a proper mechanism to purchase the farmers paddy stocks.

For example the country produces 6.5 million metric tons of paddy annually, spread over the two harvesting seasons of Yala (3 mil metric tons) and Maha (3.5 mil metric tons). Now this Maha season over 3.5 million metric tons of paddy is expected to reach the market. However the government has made promises to purchase only around 200,000 metric tons of paddy. This only means that the government is ready to purchase only around 5% of the paddy production of the country. Then what happens to the rest of the paddy that is being produced by the farmers? Therefore under these circumstances the farmers are forced to sell their paddy to the private traders for a pittance (around Rs 20 to 30) where they are unable to even cover their cost. This is the pathetic situation that the farmers are facing irrespective of who comes to power,” explained Karunaratne.

The farmers feel that the only way for the farmers to get any relief is by the government legalising the stipulated price of paddy, so that irrespective of who buys the paddy it will be at a certain stipulated price and not at prices the traders decide on, exploiting the farmers. That is all we are asking the government, say the farmers.

Further to this issue another problem that the farmers are facing is the fact that when purchasing the paddy from the farmers the relevant authorities insist on the moisture content being at 14%. But the farmers claim that this process is a whole new industry which the farmers are unable to achieve, as the poor farmers do not have the required machinery to achieve this low moisture level in their paddy. “Our traditional farmers are only in the practice of drying their paddy in the sun, but this method does not achieve this required moisture level. Hence due to this practical problem the farmers are facing the intermediate traders make use of their plight. When the farmer’s paddy is rejected due to the inconsistent moisture content, the intermediate traders offer to purchase the poor farmers paddy at a song. These traders then get a few farmers and put them forward and sell the same paddy that was purchased in the morning for around Rs 20, at Rs 50. It is ironic that the same paddy that was rejected in the morning is accepted in the evening. This whole scam is carried out based on commissions and bribes, where the farmers are the losers,” added Karunaratne.

According to the government assessment last year the production cost per kilo of paddy was around Rs. 33.29. Hence when the poor farmers are forced to sell their paddy at Rs. 20 to the traders, they are in a sad plight where they cannot even cover their costs, whereas the intermediate traders sit pretty and make a killing. But the irony is that while the poor farmers are getting played out in broad daylight the government has no plan or mechanism to provide relief to the poor farmers.

Today the price of rice is based on the notion that a kilo of paddy is purchased at Rs 50, hence the prices range from 80 upwards. However it is sad that the benefit of the high rice prices are eventually not reaching the farmers but it is the middle men who are benefiting from this. Therefore the government has to intervene in order to help the poor farmers.

Our paddy industry is being manipulated by just a handful of people such as Araliya Sahal run by Dudly Sirisena, brother of president Sirisena, Nipuna Sahal run by Siripala Gamlath former minister and Lak Sahal run by Lakshman Wasantha a former deputy minister. These are the people who are benefiting from this monopoly of the rice market. “Hence what we need to do is not raising the price of rice but instead reducing the production cost of the farmers. We suggested this to the previous government and also to the current government, but to no avail. What we are suggesting to the government is to reduce the cost of the farming equipment, seed paddy and the pesticides by removing or reducing the taxes on these so that the farmers will benefit. We believe that if the government reduces these costs then the farmer can produce paddy at Rs. 20 per kilo. Then it does not matter even if the government buys the paddy from them at Rs. 30, cause then they can at least cover their costs. If that can be done even the consumer can get a kilo of rice for about Rs 40 which will be beneficial to all,” said Karunaratne.

However this is only a temporary government and much cannot be expected from them to reach for the stars, but yet having said that they can at least legalise the stipulated price of paddy and even reduce the taxes on the equipment and seed paddy in order to bring some solace to the poor farmers who have been suffering for a long time.

Meanwhile when president Sirisena was running for presidency, the farmers were very happy as he is a son of Polonnaruwa, a rice producing area and they thought at least he will intervene and help resolve the issues faced by the poor farmers. “However it is sad to note that we have even asked for an appointment to meet with him so we could discuss these issues, but he has so far failed to even acknowledge the fact that he even received our letter, let alone reply. But if this is the stand the government is going to take, and they are only trying to safeguard the intermediate traders and ignore the grievances of the poor farmers, we will be forced to get onto the streets to protest. We do not want to do this at this point of time as it will only disrupt the government’s work, but if they keep ignoring us and our issues, then it will leave us no choice but to resort to stricter actions,” added the National Organizer of the All Ceylon Farmers’ Federation.

Over the years many farmers had even taken their own lives as they were unable to provide for their families and they had lost everything. When these farmers calculate the cost of production, they only account for the larger expenses such as the cost of equipment, seed paddy and fertilizer and pesticides. They do not even consider their labour cost. Moreover although the government provides fertilizer at concessionary rates, the farmers complain that this fertilizer is of a lower grade than what they purchase privately. There is a considerable difference in the crops when you compare the two fertilizers, say the farmers.

Also the farmers need about Rs. 9500 for the renting of the harvesting machine (‘boothaya machine’). But even with the reduction in oil prices the farmers still have to pay the same rate for these machines and the benefit of the reduced oil prices has not been given to them. So the farmers are pressured from all quarters and there is no one to see to their grievances.

The monopoly of the fertilizer and pesticide companies too are still going on. Despite the increase in kidney disease in the paddy producing areas, these pesticide companies are still operating without any problem. So far no government has taken any action to address this issue and find the cause. “We feel that this is a game being played by the successive governments where they do not want to find the cause of this issue as they are protecting the multinational fertilizer and pesticide companies that also pay them huge amounts in kickbacks. In fact we are still using eight internationally banned pesticides and fertilizers that contain arsenic. In spite of many parties raising this issue, so far nothing has been done to stop these pesticides from being used in this country and they still sell them here. This is a real tragedy for the entire country, as not only the farmers but even those who consume these produce that uses these harmful chemicals are subject to these poisons.

However the government is not doing anything about it as they are under obligation to these multinational companies and they are instead sacrificing the health of the people especially the farmers for petty gains,” lamented Karunaratne.

15 Comments for “Maithripala Let Us Down, Say Paddy Farmers”

  1. Hadeniya

    This correspondent is obviously not too well informed about the challenges that face rice production and marketing in the country. It is far too simplistic to expect a President and his government to address these problems almost overnight. Recent reports suggest that some good steps have been taken on the marketing side. Give the government time.

  2. Malin

    tHIS IS YAHAPALANAYA COMING FROM PREVIOUS REGIME WHERE PRESIDENT SIRISENA MANAGED TO INFLUENCE TO GET HIS BROTHER THE LION SHARE OF PADDY PURCHASES CREATING A MONOPOLY. THIS IS A KNOWN FACT FOR YAHAPALANAYA.

  3. This is same with any government. NATO :No Action Talk Only!

  4. Eng.M.V.R.Perera

    The pro MR SLFP is questioning the Price of Kilo of Rice which may go well above Rs 100 if a guaranteed price of Rs 50 is paid for a kilo of paddy and demanding that the price paid to farmers be brought down, this could be answered in a simple manner a loaf of bread cost Rs 65 only 2 adults can satisfy their hunger as such the cost per person is Rs32.50 but a kilo of rice which may cost Rs 110 with Rs 5 for gas for cooking will cost Rs 115 by which 5 people can satisfy there hunger cost per person being Rs 23 the saving per person by eating a nutritious plate of rice is Rs 9.50 which should be publicized by our government stating we are not only helping our paddy farmer but also helping the consumer. and giving for any variety of paddy Rs 50 I do not think our president would have broken his promise it may be MR supporters who are in key positions are doing it

  5. Draconian

    This article is no surprise coming from the supporters of MR and Company. Still all you crooks yearn for the master crook.

  6. gamarala

    Earlier there were the Paddy Marketing Board and the Marketing Department, which purchased paddy and vegetables direct from farmers.
    These were abolished by politicians pressured by the business mafia.
    The Marketing Department supplied all hospitals and other state entities with raw and cooked food items.
    These can be revived now.

  7. madmani

    Multinationals all over again ! This seems to be the universal menace facing hard working ordinary people. All governments are in the ‘big’ pockets of large corporations. It’s all about the money, honey !! Really, why can’t ‘yahapalanaya’ step in to alleviate these poor farmers’ woes?

  8. CW

    Not only you, he let us all down. He is only a puppet.

  9. Eds

    Hi Dudley, so how is business ?

  10. AB

    These things never came to light in the previous regime. At least now they can say and demand what they want. Will the Gov address these issues?

  11. AB

    Camelia Nathaniel

    Are you from the Dayan camp? HE Sirisena (peoples’ president) has already investigated and identified the problem and in the process of addressing it as per the news.

  12. Lasantha

    Every farmers must build store keep paddy in the store. when the paddy
    price up you can sell good price.

  13. every aspect of political and social activity was criminlised going by the daily display of wealth obtained by various practices both legal and mostly illicit and illegal.the principals that encouraged a cultured society in and up to the sixties is no longer pervading in our life. The style of life is displayed in the most cheaply and degenerative way. Stock market frauds, blown up costs, Bank and finance frauds and looting by the directors and managers,etc

  14. Reality

    You are the first, the rest of the country will

  15. Reality

    Maithripala Let Us Down, do not dispair you are the first in line, the whole country will follow behind you as time passes.

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