Sunday, December 25, 2011

A sustainable approach in reducing cost of food production without subsidy


Ratmale tank a month ago before the rains that made it spill

We spend Rs50B in a fertilizer subsidy using imported inorganic toxic fertilizer. I challenge the government to reduce the subsidy in half by increasing the cost of fertilizer and instead use the Rs25B saved to do the following.

There are over 10,000 tanks that need serious renovation, and restoration, along with 10,000 irrigation canals that require the same. This is mainly in the form of labor or equipment driven by labor for which most of the cost will be pumped back into the economy, rather than being spent on imported fertilizer.

I need not go into the details of the tank restoration except to illustrate one detail of many that illustrate its sustainability. The Minneriya tank that supplies the water to my paddy fields fills up within a week of heavy rain in the area. One thousand years of silting has reduced the capacity to about a quarter of its original holding capacity. How about a dredger to continuously dig up the ‘rom mada’ of the tank, and bag it and sell it to the farmers as good organic fertilizer! This will keep a dredger busy for a few years and will pay for itself as the revenue from sales will exceed the cost of the dredging.

The dire need for the irrigation canals to be restored will pay immediate dividends in ensuring predictable irrigation to the fields, which can then be cultivated with the surety of water, something I have no guarantee from my canal for Yala. This in my opinion will at a stroke improve the yields on agriculture and also reduce the concentration of the toxic chemical fertilizer that gets added to the soil and as there will be less run off by underuse, which will not add to health problems encountered in areas such as the North Central Province’s current epidemic of kidney disease.

It really should not take a rocket scientist to work out the benefit of this suggestion, considering this is actually infrastructure development for the future as opposed to the fertilizer subsidy that is a one off electoral carrot of dubious long term benefit to both agriculture and the nation as a whole.

I urge the government to sell this concept to the people at large. This is above petty party politics and is long overdue. There are thousands of acres that will come under the plough under this implementation which can only add to the nation’s food production and while some inefficient farmers may have to look to better sources of revenue, the efficient farmer will benefit and thereby the nation as a whole. So when I saw that only 600 canals did receive some form of repair this year as the money allocated was a mere Rs280M, I felt the need to point this out.

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