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China funds project to strengthen fruit value-chains in Lanka



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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Keheliya turns down request for abolishing price control on medicine



Industry leader has sought court intervention

By Shamindra Ferdinando

Health Minister Keheliya Rambukwella yesterday (17) said that in spite of difficulties caused by the foreign currency crisis price control on imported medicines couldn’t be done away with.

Abolition of price control on drugs would heap an enormous burden on the vast majority of people, Minister Rambukwella said.

Lawmaker Rambukwella said so when The Island sought his response to the Sri Lanka Chamber of the Pharmaceutical Industry (SLCPI) requesting the government to do away with price control. Claiming that the grouping imported over 80 percent of medicines into the country, the SLCPI recently warned of possible collapse of the industry unless remedial measures were taken swiftly.

Minister Rambukwella said that recently he met an SLCPI delegation at their request to discuss issues at hand. “Of course, I understand the difficulties experienced by all sectors, including the pharmaceutical trade. However, price control as regards medicine cannot be done away with,” Minister Rambukwella said.

The SLCPI has pointed out to the Minister that at the moment medicines were the only commodity under price control in the local market. The Health Minister asserted that it wouldn’t be fair to compare the medicine with other commodities.

Minister Rambukwella said that regardless of constrains, the government was trying to ensure uninterrupted supply of medicine and it wouldn’t be fair to do at this juncture.

In a statement sent to the media SLCPI asserted: “There is no solution to this dilemma than removing the price control of medicines and implement a fair and equitable pricing mechanism which will link the price of medicines to the dollar, inflation and direct costs such as raw material, fuel and freight charges, which will then make importing and marketing of medicines viable. As difficult as it may sound, the authorities will have to choose between having medicines at a cost and not having medicines at all.”

The SLCPI has already sought the intervention of the courts to establish what the grouping called a transparent pricing mechanism outside government price control.

Recently, Minister Rambukwella, at a meeting also attended by State Minister Dr. Channa Jayasumana called for a report on the requirement of medicines over the next six months. The Health Ministry declared that there was no shortage of drugs whereas SLCPI claimed some drugs were in short supply and the situation could get worse.

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Central Expressway: Rs 3 mn raked in within 12 hours



Chief Government Whip and Highways Minister Johnston Fernando said yesterday that about three million rupees had been earned by way of toll within the first 12 hours of the opening of the second phase of the Central Expressway.

Rs 2,805,100.00 had been paid by the expressway users during the first 12 hours from 12 noon to midnight Sunday (16) after its opening by the President and the Prime Minister on Saturday (15).

The Minister said that during the first 12 hours of the period of toll collection, a total of 13,583 vehicles had traversed the most  scenic road stretch in the country between Mirigama and Kurunegala. No traffic accidents had been reported during the 12 hour period.

Minister Fernando said that the newly opened road had been allowed to be used by the public free of charge for 12 hours from midnight Saturday (15) to Sunday (16) noon.

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President to inaugurate second session of Ninth Parliament today



by Saman Indrajith

President Gotabaya Rajapaksa is scheduled to commence the second session of the Ninth Parliament today at 10 am with his third Presidential policy statement (formerly Throne Speech).

He made his first ‘Throne Speech’ on Jan 3, 2020, opening the Fourth Session of the Eighth Parliament and the second on Aug 20, 2020 to open the First Session of the Ninth Parliament.

Secretary General of Parliament, Dhammika Dasanayake said that MPs have been requested to arrive at the parliamentary complex at 9.25 am the latest.

The MPs, if accompanied by their spouses will alight from their vehicles at the Staff Entrance of the parliamentary building, while all other MPs are requested to drive up to the Members’ Entrance.

To facilitate orderly arrival, the MPs are requested that the Car Label provided them with be pasted on the inside top left-hand corner of the windscreen of their vehicles. On arrival at Parliament, Members’ vehicles would be directed by the Police to the appropriate Car Park.

Thereafter the MPs are requested to enter the lobbies of Parliament and to remain there until the Quorum Bells are rung.

President Rajapaksa is scheduled to arrive at the Main Steps of the Parliament Building at 9.40 a.m. and he would be received by Speaker Mahinda Yapa Abeywardena and the Secretary-General of Parliament.

The President will be escorted by them to the Parliament Building. Thereafter, the Speaker and the Secretary-General of Parliament will escort the President to his Chambers.

At 9.55 a.m. the Quorum Bells will be rung for five minutes and all Members will take their seats in the Chamber of Parliament.

The President’s procession will leave for the Chamber of Parliament and will enter the Chamber at 10.00 am. On entering the Chamber the President’s arrival will be announced whereupon all Members will stand in their places until the President reaches the Chair and requests the Members to be seated.

Thereafter, the Proclamation proroguing the Parliament and Summoning the Meeting of Parliament will be read by the Secretary General of Parliament. Then, the President will address Parliament.

After his policy statement the President will adjourn the House until 1.00 p.m. on Wednesday (19).

Thereafter, the President will leave the Chamber escorted by the Speaker and the Secretary-General of Parliament.

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