Connect with us

Opinion

Increasing productivity of crop research institutes

Published

on

by Dr. C .S. Weeraratna

(csweera@sltnet.lk)
Former Professor at Ruhuna and Rajarata Universities
Former Chairman, Sugarcane Research Institute

It has been reported that there is a dearth of trained scientists at the plantation crop research institutes. According to published data, there are 16 vacancies for research officers at the Tea Research Institute (TRI). The corresponding numbers for the Rubber Research Institute (RRI) and the Coconut Research Institute (CRI) are 42 and 18 respectively. The traditional plantation crop sector, which comprises Tea, Rubber, Coconut, and Sugarcane, play a key role in the Sri Lankan economy. The contribution to foreign exchange earnings, by these export crops, is the second-highest with a 21.5% share in the total export income, thus increasing the inflow of foreign exchange, substantially. It also provides employment opportunities to around 500,000.

The crop research institutes play a very important role in the development of the plantation sector. The output of these research institutions tend to be at a low level, in the absence of qualified and experience research personnel, for they carry out research in many important areas, such as breeding, control of pests and diseases, maintenance of soil fertility, economics, extension, etc., which are extremely important for the development of the plantation sector.

According to the Central Bank annual reports, the trade deficit, in Sri Lanka, has increased from Rs. 1141 billion, in 2015, to Rs 1673 billion, in 2018, and has decreased to Rs. 1430 billion, in 2019. Persistent trade deficits are detrimental to the country’s economy. If we are to reduce the trade deficit, it is essential that exports are increased and imports reduced. In this regard, plantation crops are important in increasing our export income, and crop research institutions (CIs) play an important role by developing appropriate technology.

Around 800,000 ha are cultivated with plantation crops and as indicated in Table 1, production of the three major export crops, viz tea, rubber and coconut, do not show any substantial increase during the last six years. Tea production has been fluctuating around 300 million kg per year during this period. The annual total rubber production has decreased from 99 million kg in 2014 to 75 million kg in 2019. Coconut production, too, has fluctuated between 2800 and 3000 million nuts during 2015-2019. If the productivity of this sector is raised, it would be possible to increase foreign exchange earnings, thereby reducing the trade deficit. We spend nearly Rs. 50 billion annually to import sugar. Hence, it is important to increase our local sugar production, so that expenditure on imports can be reduced, thereby reducing trade deficit.

In any attempts to reduce the trade deficit by increasing production of exports crops/reducing imports of sugar, the four research institutions have an extremely important role to play. They need to conduct research to develop better clones/planting material, methods to control pests and diseases, effective management practices, better processing and value addition technologies, effective extension etc. In fact, among the many proposals in National Policy Framework “Vistas of Prosperity and Splendor” was promotion of research related to plantation crops

Hence, the Ministry of Plantation Industries need to take appropriate action to have an adequate qualified research staff at the four crop research institutions. The depletion of the research staff is likely to have contributed to the drop in crop production levels, as shown in Table 1.

There is a significant requirement for both undergraduates and postgraduates trained in subject areas related to plantation crops. Hence, there is a need to have an institution/s to impart relevant knowledge and skills related to cultivation and processing of plantation crops. Currently, except the National Institute of Plantation Management (NIPM) which offers an external three-year degree programme jointly with the Wayamba University and a few diploma courses of short duration, there is no organization providing detail knowledge and skills required for those who need training at undergraduate and postgraduate level in plantation crops.

An organization, such as a university of plantation crops in collaboration with the four research institutes, would provide such knowledge and skills. In fact, during the sector budget discussions in Parliament, a few days ago, the State Minister of Company Estate Reforms Tea and Rubber Estate Related Crops, indicated that establishing a vocational university for plantation crops to operate, under the purview of Ministry of Plantation industries, would be desirable. Such a move would enhance the research capacity of the four research institutions. It will also enable to save a substantial amount of public funds, human resources, time and also pave the way to produce a team of skilled scientists for the industry and retain senior and experienced researchers. The modalities of this proposed mechanism need to be discussed by the relevant authorities to achieve the higher possible economic benefits to the country.

Increasing the number of research staff alone will not contribute to increase production or the productivity of the plantation crops. Scientists, with adequate industrial experiences, only can contribute to the needs of the industry. Hence, an attempt should be taken to employ those with appropriate experience. They need to be provided with essential equipment, chemicals and man power, etc. It is also important that the institutions conduct relevant research. Research priorities need to be based on the needs and problems in the sector. Conducting joint research and sharing equipment would reduce expenditure.

 

 

Continue Reading
Click to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Opinion

Farce in Galle

Published

on

Kusal Mendis picked up a fourth consecutive duck in the first Test against England in Galle on Thursday

In these troubled times of COVID-19, many being house bound, it is no wonder that many watch any sport on TV. Hence the insults that come from diverse quarters for underperforming teams is more than the usual. This morning at our bridge club many have rubbed our noses for the mighty incompetence shown by the Lankan cricketers. I am not a cricket writer but I am an avid spectator and, moreover, as a non-resident Sri Lankan, who gets a momentary kick out of anything that makes Sri Lanka proud.

Why do we waste dollars on foreign coaches when all they deliver is what is currently on display? Our own past cricketers, who will be equal if not better, than the foreign instructors, can surely earn that money.

My second query is why we keep selecting those who fail consistently. Surely without propping up the losers there is no genuine reason to tolerate cavalier play without penalty because the catchment field for players is so great in the country. The lack of motivation to be competitive to perform may be their preoccupation with the lure of money and not the image of the country that you represent. Wonder whether some players have capped their motivation at the level of a Range Rover. If so they should be considerate enough to allow better talent to come in.

Third, if there is pressure as before by the corrupt and the powerful in the selection process then God help Sri Lankan cricket.

Finally, why are we nonchalantly set on this slippery road when Sri Lanka has earned the respect of cricket lovers all over the world? No wonder Mike Vaughan tweeted that, ‘those 46 overs were the most farcical and Nasser Hussein joined in to say, it was abysmal and pathetic. Why Sri Lanka is allowed to play such poorly, as an international test team, was debated at our bridge club. Australian cricket loving folk were suggesting penalties for poor play at the international level must be brought in. Surely it is reasonable, for spectators need to pocket out in rupee terms about 25000 per day, per couple if we go to the stadium.

 

Dr. D. Chandraratna,

Perth

Continue Reading

Opinion

Govt. selling political decision as scientific!

Published

on

At time of a pandemic, the issue of creamation or burial is neither religious nor political, but scientific. 

This is in response to the opinion expressed by Tharindu Dananjaya Weerasinghe in The Island of 13 January, on the burial issue.

The writer argues that the issue of cremation, or burial, should not be decided by politics or by religion. In other words, he says it should be decided by science. I do agree with him and add it should be decided by empirical research findings of experts and scientists. Muslims believe that a corpse of a Muslim should be buried, but at a time of a pandemic for them science prevails over their religious beliefs, and they abide by scientific decision. Justice Minister Ali Sabry very clearly and repeatedly said in Parliament. He said, if it was scientifically established that burial would harm the living, he could have never raised the burial issue.

Now the question is whether the decision of the government not to bury the COVID-19-infected bodies is scientific or non scientific. This is the crust of the issue here. The writer’s argument is that the Muslim community is refusing to abide by a scientific decision taken by the government. First of all, is the decision taken by the government scientific?

The writer is a senior don and is very familiar with research works. In research works, credibility of the authors cited counts a lot, and if you cite geologists in a study of virology it will not be accepted at all. For instance, on the burial issue, who will the writer listen to? Virology scientist Prof. Malik Peiris or Geology Prof. Meththika Vidanake? WHO or Health Ministry? A Committee of virologists, microbiologists and immunogists, or a committee of judicial medical officers, general physicians, geologists and one or two microbiologists?, Scientist Prof. Chandre Dharmawardana or Health Minister Pavithra Wanniarachchi? College of Community Physicians of Sri Lanka or Minister Keheliya Rambukwella…?

Further, the writer, in his introduction, says, “…the honour of death does not depend on the manner in which the funeral is performed.” This is his personal view, not a universal truth. Yet, I would draw his attention to what William E. Gladstone said on funeral rites, “Show me the manner in which a nation or a community cares for its dead and I will measure with mathematical exactness the tender sympathies of its people, their respect for the laws of the land and their loyalty to high ideals.”

I think it is also appropriate to mention the rulings of Bombay High Court of India on burial of COVID-19-infected corpses. While rejecting the petition against burial, Chief Justice Dipankar Datta and Justice SS. Shinde ruled that there was no scientific proof to support the apprehension of the petitioners that novel coronavirus could spread through cadavers, and the right to a decent burial was equal with the right to life guaranteed under the Indian constitution and the court also held the petitioners were rather insensitive to the feelings of others.

The statement of the writer “If the cremation is forbidden by God’s order, what needs to be done, at this moment, is not to change the common law of the country, but to ask for God’s permission,” is childish and makes no sense to me.

The writer considerably quote from the Holy Quran on the burial issue. They are insignificant and irrelevant. 1.8b Muslims living all over the world consider burial an important aspect of their funeral rites. A non Muslim trying to quote from the Holy Quran to convince 1.8b followers to the opposite is futile attempt. Therefore, I leave this part of his argument unanswered

Finally, I would like to say, at a time of pandemic, cremation or burial is not an issue of politics or beliefs but of science as the writer says. But the government is trying to sell a political decision as scientific decision, and it is a pity a senior university don is unable to understand it, let alone the laymen. 

 

M. A. Kaleel 

(The writer is a Retired Senior Class One Officer of a Sri Lanka Executive Service.)

Continue Reading

Opinion

Cremation of Muslim Covid-19 victims: 

Published

on

The path not taken

The rule that all Covid-19-infected patients, who succumb to the virus, must be cremated was introduced by the GOSL on the 11th of April 2020.

 

The Path Taken

The response of the Muslim community which was traumatized by this new rule had the following timeline:

Initially, pressure was brought  to bear on the Authorities by way of protests, petitions and appeals for the revocation of this order. The Authorities remained unmoved.

Then, attempts were made to circumvent the law, by sick Muslims, not seeking medical assistance in the hope that should they expire, they could then be buried, in accordance with the usual practice. The Authorities responded by introducing a new condition that all deaths, at home, must undergo PCR tests and, if necessary, a post-mortem examination to determine the exact cause of death. This meant that the burial of non-Covid Muslim deaths was delayed by over 24 hours.

Next, the Muslims began advocating a civil disobedience campaign aimed at non-compliance with the stipulated law. The families of Muslims were encouraged not to participate in the process of cremation of their Covid-infected dead by formally identifying and ‘accepting’ such bodies or accepting the ashes. This was attributed to the high costs involved and resulted in the cadavers of dead Muslims rotting away in morgues and ice-rooms for weeks/months. By actively encouraging this act of civil disobedience, the Muslims had deliberately shown the middle finger at Hadith No 401, Vol 2, Book 23 (Sahih Al-Bukhari), which urges Muslims to “Hasten the funeral rites”. So much for the pseudo-piety of such Muslims!

This phase of the Muslim-action also saw the sudden awakening of International Organizations and Foreign Health Professionals to the cremation issue in Sri Lanka – more than six months after the introduction of this new rule. They added their voices to the anti-cremation agitation in Sri Lanka. What is puzzling is the relatively long duration of time (nearly eight months) it took for some of these ‘World-renowned’ qualified personalities to offer their expert opinion on this matter.

A ‘White-Ribbon’ campaign was started through social media which fizzled out after a brief moment in time, but not before providing an opportunity for some members of the Ulema to enjoy their five minutes of fame on social media.

This phase also saw a change of heart amongst a group of minority non-Muslim politicians. These persons who remained unmoved and indifferent to the plight of Muslims being unceremoniously ejected from Jaffna and to the slaughter of 140 Muslims at prayer in a Mosque in Kattankudy, suddenly experienced a major softening of their hearts at the thought of Muslims being cremated. 

After the receipt of two reports by Committees appointed by the Ministry of Health, the Authorities decided in early January 2021 that all Covid-related deaths will continue to be cremated in the best interests of the Country.

Finally, after over nine months had elapsed since the issuance of the cremation order, realization began to sink into the ossified minds of the Muslims. This is best summed up by the recent words of a well-known Muslim activist cum social commentator: “There is no doubt in my mind now that this whole cremation denial is a ploy to radicalize our youth and get them to do something rash. The slightest provocation from Muslims will trigger a mass riot which will destroy the Muslim economy, livelihood, wealth and property. Please talk to your children, the youth around and peers not to fall for their ploy.”

So, it took around nine months for the Muslims to realize that they should avoid creating the “slightest provocation” (Fitna) in response to the cremation order from the Authorities. If only they had chosen instead to heed the advice of the Holy Prophet that Muslims should at all times settle their problems through Consultation (shura) and Consensus (ijma) rather than adopting an aggressive and confrontational stance.

 

The path that should have been taken

The secular leaders of the Muslim community and the Scholars (Ulema) failed their members miserably at a crucial moment in time when the situation called for clear, cool-headed, objective reasoning and analyses  of ground facts rather than being influenced by emotion and religious sentiment. These leaders/scholars should have focussed all their energies towards calming and reassuring the shocked and traumatized members of their community. 

Upon the issuance of the cremation order, the Muslim community should have immediately been advised that according to the Quran and Hadith, it is NOT A SIN for a Muslim to be cremated UNDER COMPULSION. ‘Al-Darurat Tubih Al-Mahzurat’ is a legal maxim in Islamic Jurisprudence that translates as ‘Necessities Overrule Prohibitions’ and that allows a Muslim in extreme circumstances to do something that would normally be haram (forbidden) to save his own or another’s life. This fact should have been extensively publicized through media and sermons and impressed upon the Muslim masses.

Permission should have been obtained from the Authorities for Muslim families to recite prayers as close as possible to the crematorium when a Muslim  was being cremated. – even if it just outside the boundary walls of the crematorium. The cathartic effects of prayers would have contributed immensely towards providing solace and consolation to the family and thereby ameliorated their trauma.

Muslims should have been urged to direct their Zakath (obligatory charity)  to a common fund to assist those families who are unable to meet the costs associated with the cremation process. This would have served to enhance the spirit of brotherhood amongst the Muslims with the ‘Haves’ assisting the ‘Have-nots’ at a moment of crisis within the community.

All Covid-infected Muslims who were cremated after death should have been conferred the status of ‘Shaheed’  or ‘Martyr’, based on the Hadith  “He who dies of plague is a martyr” (Ṣaḥīḥ al-Bukhārī, No. 5733). The elevation of their late family member to such a spiritual level would have served to lessen the trauma of cremation.

All the Muslim Cemeteries should have been ordered to allocate a special area for the burial of Muslim ashes. These burial plots should have had permanent markers and headstones (meezans), should not be re-used and be given the same social status as the Muslim War Graves at the Jawatte Muslim Cemetery. This would have served to remind Muslims now and in the future that at a time when our Motherland was facing a national crisis of immense proportions, there were Muslims who were compelled by circumstances to sacrifice their obligations to Islam.

These measures would have gone a long way towards easing the pain and trauma experienced by Muslim families who had a Member cremated due to Covid.

And in the meantime, the Muslim community should have conducted discussions with the relevant Authorities to have the cremation order revoked without any publicity by presenting the views and opinions of qualified Health Professionals on this subject. The Muslims failed to realize the fact that their confrontational approach to bring pressure to bear on the Authorities by getting various International organizations to issue statements decrying the decision to cremate may only serve to harden the stand of the Authorities. 

 

Bisthan Batcha

 

 

Continue Reading

Trending