Colombo, May 30: The Sri Lankan President Gotabaya Rajapaksa came out of his political shell on Monday, and using his Executive authority, announced a crash plan to meet the impending food crisis.
He issued instructions to Agriculture Ministry officials to immediately launch a public-private partnership to ensure food security in the country.
Last week, Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe had warned that Sri Lanka could face a severe food crisis in August which might last till early 2023.
At a meeting with top officials at this house here, President Rajapaksa said that negotiations with several countries to meet the fertilizer requirement had been successful. He therefore requested farmers not to give up cultivation during the Yala Season due to a shortage of fertilizer or any other reason.
The President pointed out that a National Fertilizer Policy should be formulated expeditiously for the import, distribution, proper management, awareness, and coordination among farmers and officials. The President also said that the full involvement of the Ministry of Agriculture is needed to carry out cultivation using chemical or organic fertilizers as per the wishes of the farmers.
“By identifying paddy fields that are not used for cultivation during the Yala Season and encouraging the cultivation of essential crops including green gram, cowpea and soybean in these, farmers can be given an opportunity to earn a higher income, “ the President said.
He instructed officials to expedite the release of the Kandakadu farm belonging to the National Livestock Development Board for the cultivation of maize, soybean, and other crops.
The government owns a large percentage of uncultivated land. It was decided to identify these lands and hand them over to young farmers.
Cultivating crops at home gardens and lands where government offices are located should be encouraged, he added.
Agriculture Minister Mahinda Amaraweera said that all public servants from Ministers, Members of Parliament and other political leaders should contribute to this action plan and set a precedent.
It was also decided to commence a Cultivation Promotion Week integrating all provinces by identifying the crops to be cultivated and to provide funds allocated to the Provincial Councils for Agriculture, Livestock and fresh-water fishing industries without any limit.
The President instructed the government to make optimal use of the Eppawala phosphate deposit to produce fertilizers containing phosphorus needed for the upcoming Maha Season.
Measures to provide animal feed in order to control the prices of milk, eggs and chicken were also discussed at length.
Plans have been made to reduce post-harvest wastage, save food, store food, preserve and increase the value of agro products, and introduce and popularize alternative foods.
The Secretary to the Ministry of Agriculture M.B.R. Pushpakumara said steps have been taken to implement a number of programs including promoting agriculture-related self-employment and to introduce methods to prevent diseases and damages caused by pesticides in crops.
Heads of line agencies of the Ministry of Agriculture were also present.