Fall army Worm and the food that we eat - EDITORIAL

25 January 2019 02:29 am - 0     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

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ri Lanka’s agriculture and dairy industries are experiencing plagues and the entire country went into alert mode by early Thursday. 
The mother of all issues is the havoc caused by the Fall Army Worm and the authorities are said to be ‘burning midnight oil’ to find a solution. 
While folks in the areas affected by the worm are pain-stricken citizens in other areas are contemplating on thoughts whether to lay off from consuming foods like plantains and all types of green leaves till this epidemic is brought under control. 
These are days where Sri Lanka is battered not only by the Fall Army Worm, but also by issues relating to the mysterious death of cattle and the destruction caused by a blight attack on the onion cultivation, in some parts of the country. Adding to all these issues is the closing down of as many as 250 rice mills. Another 400 rice mills are on the verge of collapse. 


President Sirisena has been quick to respond to the challenge and has told his chargers to approach the curbing of the Fall Army Worm as if fighting a war. A government’s strength and capacity to perform are exposed during a crisis and this is yet another opportunity for this regime to save the people from distress. 
Like in the past the lab work carried out to find a solution to the problem will be done by government experts. But we have come to know that the private sector too has been invited to be part of a team that is hell-bent on finding the solution. All these efforts have been strengthened by Sirisena appointing a presidential task force to deal with the situation.


Sri Lanka has time and again been exposed as a nation which is underprepared to face disasters. But Minister of Agriculture Fisheries and Rural Economy P. Harrison has said that farmers were given a prior warning when the news broke out that the worm was first spotted in the subcontinent. Experts state that the epidemic is hard to control because the moth that spreads this epidemic can fly as far as 100 km. 
This situation is similar to that of the battle between drug producers and the authorities assigned to detect drug use in sport. Like the companies which produce performance enhancing drugs always being a step ahead of the sports authorities, the Fall Army Worm seems to be ahead of efforts taken to curb this menace. 
But the small worms see the tide slowly building up against them with the Government allocating as much as 120 million to launch control operations and introducing as many as five pesticides to check this epidemic. 


But there needs to be a word of caution because the excessive use of pesticides can affect other crops. 
The recent blight attack on the onion industry in Kalpitiya has unearthed that the excessive use of agrochemicals and fertilizer is the reason for the destruction. 
The mysterious death of 200 odd cattle in Polonnaruwa has affected the milk industry in the area. Authorities state that the deaths could be due to the water consumed by the cattle being contaminated by a poisonous algae. Milk production in this area has dropped by as much as 40% as a result.  


Opposition Leader Mahinda Rajapaksa has lived up to the patriotic label he wears and has called for the government to compensate the farmers affected by this fall army worm epidemic. For the record the Government has decided to pay a figure close to Rs 40,000 per acre of crop affected by the Army Fall Worm. 
Maize, onion, cabbage, red onions and knol khol cultivation being badly affected and cattle perishing due to a mystery disease all pose a threat to the food industry in general. A healthy nation relies on a supply of food which boasts of hygiene of the highest quality. This is a time when Sri Lankan citizens have to suddenly be aware of what they eat! 

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