By Zahara Zuhair
A national agriculture policy directed towards shifting from traditional, low-value agriculture to modern, high-value agriculture, is required to overcome the challenges faced by the agriculture industry at present, University of Peradeniya Faculty of Agriculture Professor Buddhi Marambe said.
“This should be accompanied by sustained improvements in productivity and competitiveness at least focusing on five crops namely, rice, maize, mung bean, soybean and chilies, ensuring that the agriculture industry will move into a significantly higher growth path supporting the overall development of the country. With these crops, we can enormously earn foreign exchange by exporting them,” he said. He said that the overall challenge faced by the industry is to decide on policy reforms to ensure sustained growth, while mitigating existing constraints and future challenges and the irrational, politically-biased decisions taken at the highest administrative level without a sound scientific basis.
He added that the lack of agricultural diversion, agrarian poverty, poor water management, stagnant productivity levels and slow adoption rates for novel technologies are also some of
the issues faced by the industry as
He noted that it is important to enhance participation of farmer organisations and the private sector, as they should be active joint-partners in agriculture development for equity-based development.
The professor suggested that with improved diversification, agriculture has to be transformed into an export-based, sustainable industry.
“Although we have success story for rice, we can’t talk about success stories for other products such as corn or maize. We have not progressed, lot more to be done in order to achieve self sufficiency,” he said at a press conference held to announce CIC Precision agriculture system in Colombo recently.
He said that in order to achieve the target of increasing food productivity the most viable way is to increase productivity as importing food, and expanding the extent of cultivation are also two ways of increasing productivity, but they are not viable.
“To expand the extent of cultivation— it is not possible in the present context as we have a limited land area, our population is increasing. But then even the government has promised looking at environmental concern. One of their objectives is to increase the forest cover. Looking at those it will be extremely difficult to expand cultivation, so the available viable option is to increase the productivity,” he said.
He also said that the government has allowed a 300 percent tax incentives to be set against investments in research and development (R&D).
Domestic agriculture provides approximately 80 percent of Sri Lanka’s food requirement in value terms while the share of agriculture exports in total exports is round 25 percent.