With the unprecedented drought and the sharp decline in the value of the rupee sending the cost of living soaring to levels beyond the reach of millions, the Government needs to take effective measures to bring down the cost of living by encouraging local production.
The first important step is the formulation of a national policy on food and nutritional supplements. To start at the beginning is a good place to start, and this is the vital area of fresh local milk for our children.
Milco, the national dairy milk production company, announced that the production of fresh milk had doubled this year and the company hoped to reach self-sufficiency by 2016.
This is good news both in terms of nutrition and the economy. Nutritionists say fresh local milk is the best for our children, and it could be made available at affordable prices and the country could save millions of dollars in foreign exchange by restricting the import of powdered milk.
Until the 1960s fresh local milk was made available to most people at affordable prices and imported powdered milk was seldom used.
But some transnational companies used subtle and sophisticated methods among the people and farmers to promote the use of powdered milk.
With the 1977 UNP government turning wholesale to the globalised capitalist market economic policy, the transnational companies found it easier and more so were encouraged to promote imported powdered milk.
Most nutritionists agree that the best growth foundation for a baby is breast feeding for at least two years. Even this was discouraged in subtle ways, and most mothers switched from the breast to the bottle after three months with unhealthy consequences for the child.
Gradually more and more people were encouraged or persuaded in various ways to turn from fresh local milk to the imported powdered milk. Farmers also were persuaded by transnational companies who told them cock and bull stories to sell their cows and turn to some other livelihood.
Gradually we have come to a situation where most people have become dependent on imported powdered milk with prices going up regularly and fresh local milk is hard to find.
In recent years, some transnational companies have also used various methods to promote the so-called nutritional supplements in powdered milk with a big increase in prices.
Television advertisements feature prominent personalities claiming these nutritional supplements had wonderful properties for good health. Recently even a prominent medical association at its annual scientific sessions sponsored by powdered milk companies in subtle ways promoted the nutritional supplements.
We urge the Government to act fast and effectively to restore local fresh milk production so that our struggling people will have access to good nutrition at affordable prices while the country could also go a long way in solving its balance of payments crisis with the expenditure on imports now virtually double the income from exports.