Wednesday, April 18, 2012

The latest insult to Lanka’s paddy farmers – export of rice

It was reported a short while ago today, April 18th 2012, that the Secretary to the Ministry of Agriculture, KA Sakalasooriya, has announced the creation of four zones for export. One in each of Mannar for growth of Keeri Samba, Hambantota for growing red rice, (presumably long grain) and Polonnaruwa and Anuradhapura for growing BG 357 a variety of white rice. It was further announced that in the next Yala season this paddy would be purchased at Rs40/kg.

Why is this announcement insulting? He has no clue about rice farming, about yields on different soil and growing conditions, and on different varieties of paddy.

I have planted 6 varieties of paddy, and I have personally sold door to door, 14 varieties of rice arising from this paddy. I have also grown keeri samba a particularly fine grained white rice. Its yield is usually a lot less than other varieties and I have sold the rice for around Rs100/kg which is about what the price is for the par boiled variety even now. I like to say they look like ‘podi muthu ata’

Rs 40/kg is not enough to compensate for the lower yields. At this price I can buy the paddy, and mill it and sell it at Rs80/kg and still make a profit of Rs10/kg, after taking account of transport. A large miller will make a profit of Rs20/kg as he has other cost savings that I do not have as I pay a small miller to do so. Further I wish to reiterate that I grew Red basmati as an outgrower for CIC and lost a lot of money. I was promised Rs 42/kg for paddy, for rice they sell at over Rs150/kg.So I do not trust these statements.

I really suspect that if farmers produce paddy at this price for the quality that is required for export, it is the Miller who will make the profit again, as he has the market sown up, and all the Government is doing by making this promise is doing the bidding of the Millers who have given the Govt. an undertaking to buy this paddy at this price, something they cannot do at the moment, due to the lack of sufficient quantity of paddy of these varieties to meet export orders.

I trust the reader can understand where I am getting at with this argument. The Miller has seen a greater opportunity using the auspices of the Govt. to try an ensure sufficient quantity of product to meet their market. So they can increase the profit they make. I ask him to pass on the commission he makes on this to the farmer by offering the paddy farmer at least Rs50/kg for the paddy of these varieties to ensure sufficient supply. There is NO way farmers will fall for the Govt. ruse in sufficient quantity for export to ensure viability in economies of scale. SAKALA go back to your drawing board please and TRY AGAIN

A Govt. that presents itself as the friend of the farmer has been the one that has ruined farmers forever by their lack of a comprehensive agricultural policy. Due to their expert media effort at fooling the Agricultural community, they have successfully hidden their deception from the public, and I am attempting by using actual real world examples to show that they have no idea of what they are doing. The farmer is being crucified by this government and the farmer seems to be going to his crucifixion like a lamb to slaughter, what a sad sad reality!!!


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