Monday, October 20, 2008

Is Agriculture a luxury for the wealthy?


As I am in subsistence agriculture, I now firmly I believe that the enjoyment of agriculture is only for the wealthy and is a luxury few can indulge in.

This last week, I visited a highly respected and extremely successful ayurvedic physician in Piliyandala, a suburb of Colombo. He has his own pharmacy in addition to his clinic and hospital where there is always a stream of patients, and when he discovered what I was doing, called me into his consulting room and while the patients were lined up waiting to see him, he wanted to know what I was doing and wanted to visit me on my property.

He has a 50 acre coconut estate in the Kurunegala District and he was unabashedly saying that he is pouring money into the property with no return in sight or prospect in the near future. He is experimenting with planting cinnamon under coconut as he maintains that when the Europeans landed in Sri Lanka, they discovered that cinnamon was grown in the Kurunegala district. It has now shifted to the South, so he has decided to revive its presence in Kurunegala.

He was talking about the expense of upkeep and the increasing running costs. I know other people who have sold their 50acre properties as they found it too difficult to run as absentee owners, due to the unreliability and dishonesty of their staff. I have referred to earlier in this blog about how, many people lose a high percentage of their crops to theft, and how there are many in the village who are known rogues and operate with impunity while also getting protection from the police.

I have noted earlier in the blog on the level of risk a farmer takes, and that the reward does not even come close to a decent return, and that it is suicidal to be a peasant farmer and also for the government to protect them by way of subsidy and handouts as it is only a form of welfare and not a means to increasing productivity. It is therefore even more surprising when large landowners also say the same thing on profitability except in the case where they are either a large corporate entity or are on site running their property.

We must therefore take a leaf from this book and take into account how we can improve productivity in agriculture, reduce the number of subsistence farmers, and speed the inevitable process of larger mechanized working farms, like in the developed world. That is the future in a laborless sector.

4 comments:

CaptainM said...

Wow that field looks really lush. It must be very rewarding to see the fruits of your work. Nice blog, I did enjoy reading it.

George said...

Coconut cultivation is indeed a losing proposition. I own 20 acres near Chilaw. The watcher is honest and hardly any nuts are lost due to theft. But the low price of coconuts and the high price of fertilizer has hit us badly.

Coconuts are only Rs. 17 per nut wholesale, while the price of fertilizer, which is not subsidized, has gone thru the roof. To fertlize the 1,200 trees on my land, the cost would be Rs. 4lakhs. And this has to be done annually.

The other option is to use goat manure, which too has shot up in priice in line with chemical fertilizer. In this case, an added cost is the Rs. 60/ that labourers ask for applying the goat manure to each tree. For this alone (that is, without the cost of manure), the cost would be Rs. 72,000.

Anonymous said...

get some hybrids that can handle the unique situ on your farm.

learn about the different available seeds and see which works best

Anonymous said...

Hi
Very nice and intrestingss story.