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China funds project to strengthen fruit value-chains in Lanka

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A project to provide technical assistance to improve the production and commercialization of fruit value-chains in Sri Lanka has been launched by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and the Ministry of Agriculture with financial assistance from China.

The project, valued at over USD 1.1 million is implemented under the FAO-China South-South Cooperation Tripartite Agreement between FAO, China and Sri Lanka.

Sri Lanka has a rich diversity of fruits with approximately 100 edible fruit crops and the potential for a more profitable industry. However the fruit sector remains under-developed and suffers from poor cultivation and high post-harvest losses leading to low yield and inadequate adherence to international quality standards. The FAO-China South-South Cooperation Project which will be implemented in the Kalutara, Gampaha, Moneragala, Anuradhapura and Kilinochchi districts in Sri Lanka, will prioritize the productivity, production and commercialization of three main fruit value-chains; banana, mango and pineapple in the domestic and export markets.

Aimed at developing an inclusive and efficient agribusiness sector in Sri Lanka, the project will increase capacities of processors, traders and other value chain actors to adopt improved post-harvest and processing practices, technologies, business skills and quality standards allowing better domestic and export market opportunities. Public-private partnerships will be promoted to attract medium to large scale investments in fruit orchards and processing.

Speaking at the project inception meeting in Colombo, Secretary to the Ministry of Agriculture Senior Professor Udith K. Jayasinghe expressed his gratitude to the Government of China, noting that support towards the development of market-oriented inclusive agri-food value chains, particularly high value commercial crops such as fruits is in-line with the priorities of Sri Lanka’s agricultural policy.

Prof. Jayasinghe also stated that the project will create opportunities to explore new export markets including in China for fruits, in both fresh and processed forms, from Sri Lanka.

Xie Jianmin, Counsel (Director-General level), Department of International Cooperation of the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Affairs of China (MARA) stated that China attaches great importance to agricultural development.

Jianmin, said that while addressing and ensuring national food security, China also actively participates in multilateral South-South Cooperation in agriculture, promoting agricultural development and food security in developing countries.

“We look forward to collaborating closely with Sri Lanka and FAO to develop innovative models and create new prospects for cooperation in agriculture,” Jianmin said.

Experts and technicians will be fielded over a period of two years to offer technical guidance to communities through practical field-based trainings including the setting-up of model fruit farms, training of trainers, and farmer field schools.

Director of FAO’s South-South and Triangular Cooperation Division, Ye Anping highlighted the important role of the experts from Sri Lanka, noting that “the experts and institutions from Sri Lanka have a critical role to play in ensuring that the technologies and practices from China are relevant, replicable and adapted to the local conditions.”

Underscoring the importance of partnerships for innovations, FAO Representative for Sri Lanka and the Maldives, Vimlendra Sharan stated that innovative forms of knowledge and technology transfers led by the global South are transforming lives all around the world. “In Sri Lanka too this partnership to promote commercial fruit production will boost the livelihoods of smallholder farmers and all value-chain actors, and will contribute to the food and nutrition security of Sri Lankans.”’

Li Zhiping, Deputy Director-General, Foreign Economic Cooperation Centre (FECC), Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Affairs (MARA) of China added that “it is hoped that this joint effort will be a model for China-Sri Lanka cooperation in the agricultural sector particularly in times of uncertainties such as the COVID-19 pandemic and impacts of climate change.”

The South-South Cooperation initiatives help developing countries share and transfer agricultural knowledge and expertise among themselves, so that innovation and good practices that have been tested elsewhere in the global South can benefit other countries facing similar challenges. China has been an active participant, strong supporter and major contributor of FAO’s South-South Cooperation, granting USD 130 million to the programme in support of knowledge sharing and technology transfer among southern countries.

Since 2009, the FAO-China South-South Cooperation Programme has conducted about 30 projects at national, regional and global levels, benefitting more than 100,000 people directly from the Global South.



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Countrywide power outage act of sabotage, claim TU, officials

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Unions suspect sinister attempt to call in military

Engineers say technical fault caused power failure

CEBEU suspends work-to-rule protest

By Ifham Nizam

The government was trying to pin the blame for yesterday’s countrywide power outage on the Ceylon Electricity Board (CEB) trade unions in a bid to call in the military, Joint Trade Union Alliance Convener Ranjan Jayalal said yesterday.

Jayalal told The Island the government’s attempt would tarnish the image of the military and that of the country, but such intimidatory tactics would not deter the CEB unions from continuing with their action against the questionable agreement between the government and the US energy firm, New Fortress, which has been allowed to acquire a 40% stake in the Yugadanavi power plant. “The government is trying to derail our trade union action, scheduled for December 08. Definitely the power outage was an act of sabotage. Two units of the Norochcholai coal-fired power plant and the one at Sapugaskanda had failed,” he added, insisting that the trade unions had nothing do with the power outage. He said union activists had sprung into action to restore power despite their work-to-rule, for the sake of the country and its people.

A senior independent electrical engineer said the power failure was an act of sabotage or attempt at sabotage. “It could have been a rehearsal that misfired,” he added.

Electricity supply in several areas in Colombo and its suburbs were restored around 2.00 p.m. Subsequently, the power supply on Anuradhapura-Habarana, Laxapana-Athurugiriya and Kotmale-Biyagama transmission lines was restored. However, even at 5.30 p.m. most parts of the Gamapaha District experiencing power failures.

CEB General Manager, Eng. M R Ranatunga sand disruptions to the power supply could be considered sabotage. He said CEBEU activists had been dragging their feet on power restoration.

State Minister of National Security & Disaster Management Chamal Rajapaksa said necessary action would be taken against the CEB engineers if it was revealed that the power outage was an act of sabotage.

Major disruptions to the electricity supply were reported across the country around 11.30 a.m. yesterday owing to a breakdown in transmission lines.

The National Water Supply and Drainage Board (NWS&DB) said the water supply in several areas of Colombo and suburbs had been disrupted due to the breakdown in the power supply as the NWS&D is dependent on the national grid for pumping purposes.

The Ceylon Electricity Board Engineers Union (CEBEU) last night said it had received a favourable response from the government to its demands and therefore decided to suspend its work-to-rule campaign.

The Island learns that President’s Secretary Dr. P. B. Jayasundara will meet a CEBEU delegation, next week.

A senior electrical engineer expressed concern about CEB General Manager’s statement that the power outage was an act of sabotage by the engineers’ union. He denied as baseless the official’s claim.

CEBEU Secretary Dhammike Wimalarathne confirmed that his union had decided to suspend trade union action following an undertaking given by the government to have talks with them.

Meanwhile, CEBEU President Saumya Kumarawadu, addressing the media, yesterday, insisted that the power outage had been due to a technical problem.

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Chamal tells Parliament if power failure is due to sabotage, culprits will be dealt with severely

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By Saman Indrajith

Minister of Irrigation and State Minister of Internal Security, Home Affairs and Disaster Management, Chamal Rajapaksa told Parliament yesterday that the government was investigating the causes of yesterday’s countrywide power outage and if it was due to sabotage those responsible would be severely dealt with.

Responding to a question by Anuradhapura District SJB MP Rohana Bandara Dissanayake during the third reading stage debate on Budget 2022 under the expenditure heads of the Ministry of Defence, the Minister said that the government would not tolerate sabotage.

MP Rohana Bandara Dissanayake said that while the national security was being debated in Parliament the entire country was experiencing a power outage which could be considered a serious threat to national security.

He said all reservoirs were brimful and there was sufficient water to generate hydro power.

Colombo District SJB MP Dr. Harsha de Silva said that the entire country was in dark and Parliament was sitting thanks to power supplied by generators.

Minister Rajapaksa said that the government had already called for an investigation and it would not hesitate to take necessary action on the findings of the probe.

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Committee on Public Finance meeting: one-third drop in next Yala harvest predicted

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Members of the Committee on Public Finance recently recommended that if the import ban on rice, which was imposed last April, is to be lifted, it should be done only after a proper forecast of the coming Yala harvest.

The Chairman of the Committee on Finance Anura Priyadharshana Yapa pointed out that under the prevailing circumstances, the interest of the paddy farmers and consumers had to be taken into consideration.

In response to MP Yapa’s comment, the Imports and Exports Controller General revealed that, according to the available data, the expected Yala harvest is likely to be only 2/3 as compared to last year.

MP Nalin Fernando pointed out that if businessmen were allowed to import rice freely, the business community would be tempted to import more rice than necessary, driving the paddy prices down and affecting the farming community badly. Hence, the Ministry of Finance should intervene to prevent the local farmer from facing difficulties. MP Fernando also pointed out to the officials of the Ministry of Finance that it was important to make rice freely available at reasonable prices. Sri Lankans did not like rice imported from neighbouring countries, he said.

The Committee on Public Finance was urged to obtain approval for an Extraordinary Gazette Notification permitting the importation of Kekulu, Nadu, Samba and other types of rice as per the order of the Minister of Finance. MP Dr. Harsha de Silva said officials had to investigate the macro economic impact of such orders given without a proper procedural or logical assessment.

The committee members inquired from the officials of the Ministry of Finance who were present at the Committee meeting whether the 2021 Budget forecasts could be fulfilled. According to the statistics and data submitted by the officials of the Ministry of Finance, the committee observed that if only local funds were used to repay all debts, there would be an increase in interest rates in the near future and that would adversely affect the local private sector, (Dr.) Harsha de Silva said.

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