Saturday, May 26, 2012

Exporting Corn to Taiwan and Canada! The sweet smell of success

I must confess that I am pleasantly and unbelievably surprised that after many years of Sri Lanka being a net importer or corn, we are now a net exporter of this product for the first time. If the government statistics are to be believed, our annual consumption of corn is 180,000 tonnes and this year due to a harvest of 200,000 tonnes we have a surplus of 20,000 tonnes for export. That is an extremely creditable achievement which we hope can be built upon, firt for corn and then for other products. I Understand that Wyamba Traders have entered into forward purchasing agreements with up to 2200 farmers in Anuradhapura District at Rs35 a kg for the maize/corn  which takes 75 days from planting seeds to harvest and this has helped the farmers earn a reasonable return as compared with paddy cultivation.

I have grown corn myself and know if it is grown in large quantities one can use many labor saving tools to harvest and separate the corn from the cob, which is obviously the reason for this success. Most of the corn we produce goes for animal feed, and in the past we imported this to make the animal feed. There is no doubt that we have used high yielding varieties of seeds bought at high cost, from international suppliers who amy also have used GM seeds, though our seed control people are blissfully unaware that we are unable to market GM produce in the Island!!

Nevertheless credit must be given to the farmers for producing corn in abundance so that we have sufficient for export too. I hope we do not see a day when we import this commodity if we have ideal soil and growing conditions to grow it at a cost that is lower enough where we can compete in the world market with other suppliers. I am at a loss to know why we are sending corn to Canada, surely a very high producer of the item! I guess there is a reason for that.

On a related issue I am currently not in the loop on the price of corn in the market. All I know is that egg producers are losing money hand over fist with the drop in egg prices to Rs6 wholesale which would be the price the producers receive no matter what we pay at the store! If the feed cost including corn is so high, I do not know how they can sustain purchasing this product, and if they cull their flocks due to the losses, then the demand for corn would drop further.

This success in our agricultural products could be a fore runner of more marginal land going from paddy cultivation to growing corn as the latter does not require that much water and in the Yala season a perfect intercrop to complement paddy, and once harvested the spent trees can be ploughed back into the soil to improve the humus content of the soil as well the natural nitrogen content. I have fed the newly harvested plants to my cows as animal feed also so I am sure with some ingenuity many uses can be found to enrich the soil of paddy fields with this crop.