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Agriculture Minister pledges to make large scale paddy purchases from next season

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By Saman Indrajith

Agriculture Minister Mahindananda Aluthgamage had said that beginning from the next harvesting season, 1,000 kilos of paddy per hectare would be purchased at a guaranteed price of Rs. 50 per kilo from every farmer who received the fertilizer subsidy.

The minister has said that Rs. 100 million was allocated to the Paddy Marketing Board to restore the storage complexes in order to carry out the paddy storage process efficiently and safe.

Minister Aluthgamage said so while addressing the Ministerial Consultative Committee on Agriculture in the Parliament complex on Tuesday.  

The minister said that steps would be taken to eradicate the existing monopoly on paddy to keep the price of the vital commodity under control.

Labour Minister Nimal Siripala de Silva, who attended the Consultative Committee meeting, pointed out most of post-harvest lossess occurred due to wild animals and during transportaion. 

Minister Aluthgamage said that discussions were being held with the Wildlife Department on the issue and it was expected to take immediate action.

It was also revealed that chemical fertilizers were increasingly used in the country and they led to serious envisionmental and health issues.

Aluthgamage said that to control the situation, soil testing kits would be provided to all Agrarian Service Centres and fertilisers would be issued only according to the soil conditions in the area.

Each Agrarian Service Centre would be equipped with agricultural machinery and personnel trained to handle them for the benefit of the farming community, Minister Aluthgamage said. stressing that a database covering the entire country would be set up, containing information about agriculture.

Issues such as the recultivation of abandoned paddy fields, the restoration of economic centres, the revival of Agrarian Service Centres, and the recruitment of personnel to handle the distribution of fertiliser were also discussed at the consultative committee meeting.

State Minister of Production and Supply of Fertilizer and Regulation of Chemical Fertilizer and Insecticide Use, Mohan Priyadarshana de Silva, State Minister of Backward Rural Areas Development and Promotion of Domestic Animal Husbandry; Minor Economic Crop Cultivation S. Viyalanderan , State Minister of Livestock, Farm Promotion and Dairy & Egg Related Industries D.B. Herath, Members of Parliament, Director General of the Department of Agriculture, Commissioner of Agrarian Services and other government officials were present at the meeting.

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Covid-19 vaccination programme: MPs not in priority group; President, armed forces chiefs in ‘third category’ 

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By Shamindra Ferdinando

State Minister for Primary Health Care, Epidemics and COVID Disease Control, Dr. Sudarshini Fernandopulle yesterday (25) said that members of Parliament were not among those categorised as priority groups expected to be vaccinated against the Covid-19 pandemic.

Dr. Fernandopulle said so in response to The Island query whether parliamentarians would receive the vaccine scheduled to be delivered by India this week. Asked to explain, Dr. Fernandopulle said that health workers, armed forces and law enforcement personnel engaged in Covid-19 prevention operations would be given priority.

“Lawmakers haven’t been listed under priority groups. However, some members may get the vaccine if they are accommodated in the over 60 years category and those suffering from diabetes, heart disease, cancer et al,” the State minister said.

In addition to State Minister Dayasiri Jayasekera, several lawmakers, representing both the government and the Opposition had been afflicted over the past several weeks. SLPP lawmaker Wasantha Yapa Bandara (Kandy district) is the latest victim. Health minister Pavitradevi Wanniarachchi was among over half a dozen lawmakers tested positive.

Army Commander General Shavendra Silva told Derana yesterday morning Sri Lanka would receive approximately 500,000 to 600,000 doses from India. Responding to a spate of questions from Derana anchor Sanka Amarjith, Gen. Silva explained the measures taken by the government to ensure a smooth vaccination programme. The Army Chief who also functions as the Chief of Defence Staff revealed India had paid for the consignment obtained from the UK.

Later in the day, The Island sought an explanation from the Army Chief regarding the President, Service Commanders, Secretary Defence given the vaccination along with frontline health workers et al, the celebrated battlefield commander said: “Will be in third priority group.”

Asked whether the student population would be accommodated at an early stage of the vaccination programme, Dr. Fernandopulle said that those under 18 years of age, pregnant and lactating mothers wouldn’t be included at all as such groups hadn’t been subjected to trials. Education Secretary Prof. Kapila Perera wasn’t available for comment.

Dr. Fernandopulle emphasized the pivotal importance of following health guidelines strictly in spite of the launch of the vaccination programme. “We shouldn’t lower our guard under any circumstances,” Dr. Fernandopulle said, urging the population to be mindful of those unable to receive the vaccination due to no fault of theirs. As those under 18 years of age had been left out of the vaccination programme, a substantial section of the population would be denied the protection, the State Minister said.

Sri Lanka is also expected to procure vaccines from China and Russia in addition to the doses from India. Health Secretary Maj. Gen. Sanjeewa Munasinghe wasn’t available for comment.

Sri Lanka launches the vaccination programme with the total number of positive cases nearing 60,000 with nearly 50,000 recoveries. The government recently re-opened the Bandaranaike International Airport (BIA) following a pilot programme that brought over 1,200 Ukrainians in dozen flights through the Mattala International Airport.

Dr. Fernandopulle said that the government was ready to launch the vaccination programme as soon as the first consignment arrived from India.

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Tennis balls filled with drugs thrown into Kandakadu Covid-19 treatment centre

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By Norman Palihawadane

Two tennis balls filled with drugs had been thrown into the Covid-19 treatment centre at Kandakadu, Police Spokesperson DIG Ajith Rohana said.

The contraband was found on Saturday by the Army officers attached to the facility.

DIG Rohana said the two tennis balls containing cannabis, heroin and tobacco, had been handed over to the Welikanda Police.

A special investigation has been launched into the incident, the Police Spokesperson said. Such incidents had been previously reported from Welikada, Negombo and other prisons, but it was the first time contraband containing narcotics had been thrown into a Covid-19 treatment centre, he added.

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All cargo clearances at Colombo port now through electronic payments

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The Sri Lanka Ports Authority (SLPA) has introduced a system where payment for imports could be made via the Internet. This allows port users to make payments from their homes or offices to clear goods from the Port of Colombo.

The SLPA has said in a media statement that the new special facility will enable port users to make their port payments easily without hassle.

At present, all terminals of the Port of Colombo are run according to a strategic crisis management plan.

 

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