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Not a single seed farm has been started in SL since 1990 — Anura Kumara Dissanayake



‘While seed mafia holds sway

by Saman Indrajith

Successive governments in recent years have contributed towards total subjugation of the country’s agriculture seed market to the multinational corporations, JVP leader Anura Kumara Dissanayake said.

Participating in the committee stage debate on budget 2021, MP Dissanayake said: “There are three main mafias in the world – the first is the pharmaceutical mafia, the second is weapons mafia and the third is seed mafia. The seed companies such as Monsanto of the US had totally subjugated the world seed market. They have been able to set up their local agents who in turn control the local seed market for a profit.

“This is a very profitable business. When a kilo of chilli seeds unloaded at Colombo harbor its CFI value is $300 (Rs. 55,000) in rupees but sold in the market at Rs 169,000. The CFI value of a kilo of papaw is 190 dollars at the harbor (Rs. 35,150) but sold at Rs. 800,000 in the market. A kilo of seed tomato is 600 dollars in its CFI value at the harbor. That means Rs. 110,000  but sold at Rs 190,000 in the market.

“A kilo of cabbage seed is at $85 in its CIF value (Rs.15,725) but sold at Rs 400,000 in the market. These figures will help you understand what is really happening. Can we break this monopoly of the seed mafia and its local agents?

“Since 1990 not a single seed farm has been started in this country. The seed farms we had were sold. Seed farms at Pelvehera, Hingurakgoda and China farm between Thamuttagama and Talawa were sold to CIC. The Mahailuppallama seed farm today is abandoned to become a forest of ipil-ipil. There was a plan to sell that too off to a Bangladesh company in 2018.

“We in Sri Lanka had a bio-diversity rich seed culture. We had varieties of pumpkin, ladies fingers, maze etc, but none of them exist now. Those varieties were suitable for the soil, environment zone and climate of those zones. None of those varieties are seen now.  We have only the products coming from the seeds provided to us by the multinational corporations.

“The loss of seed culture and the subjugation to the multinational corporations is only an outcome of the sorry state prevailing. The situation of agriculture in the country today could be seen in the way the government treats the agriculture minister. Minister Mahindananda Aluthgamage holds the agriculture portfolio.

“On Aug. 9 in a gazette allocating institutions to the ministries, four institutions namely the Agriculture Department, Agriculture and Agrarian Insurance Board, Elkaduwa Plantations Ltd and Export Agriculture Department were placed under his purview. In another gazette dated Sept. 23, the number was brought down to two. Mahindananda Aluthgamage is the first-ever agriculture Minister in the country without the Agrarian Services Board and Department of Export Agriculture under his purview. The Council for Agricultural Research Policy (CARP) is also not under his purview.

“Our nation is known since time immemorial as a civilization based on agriculture, but the contribution made by agriculture to the GDP is not sufficient today. Agriculture occupies 11 percent of lands, 25 percent of the workforce but contributes only seven percent to the GDP. Its contribution to the industries sector is 35 percent. That is the main problem of the country’s agriculture sector today.

“The second problem is the poor living conditions of the farmers. The least number of facilities in healthcare, drinking water, education, roads and housing are allocated to the farmers. They live in abject poverty as a result. They are in debt to the fertilizer shop, pesticide shop, the millers and the paddy purchasers. Their jewelry is at the pawnbrokers. They have become prey to the micro-credit companies. So the lives of farmers should not only be brought up economically but also socially if the government has any genuine intention of developing the country’s agriculture sector”.

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LIOC seeks to expand operations



by Ifham Nizam

Power and Energey Minister Kanchana Wijesekera yesterday revealed that Lanka Indian Oil Company (LIOC) had asked for permission to set up 50 new filling stations in the country and take over a certain number of petrol sheds currenlty under the Ceylon Petroleum Corporation (CPC). The government had asked the LIOC to increases the supply of fuel, in case Sri Lanka agreed to the Indian proposal,Wijesekera added.

Sri Lanka was facing daunting challenges as regards fuel distribution and it might not be able to get rid of fuel queues anytime soon, Minister Wijesekera said.Speaking to journalists yesterday, in Colombo, Wijesekera said that plans were underway to introduce a token system for fuel dispensation.He said the new scheme could come into effect from today (27) and the Police, and the armed forces will help implement it.

He also said that four separate groups from the Ministry were working on petrol, diesel, crude / furnace oil, and jet fuel imports. “We asked Lanka IOC to increase fuel supply and CEYPETCO to purchase diesel from them. But they asked for a price revision before that according to the pricing formula. That’s why we revised the price in a situation where there was no fuel in the country.”

The moves came as the government increased fuel prices with effect from the wee hours of Sunday wee hours. Petrol (Octane 92) now sells at Rs 470 per litre and Octane 95 at Rs. 550 per litre. Auto Diesel sells at Rs 460 per litre and Super Diesel at Rs 520 per litre.The Minister said they were working on 130-plus proposals for fuel delivery to Sri Lanka.

“USD 500 million is something that Sri Lanka cannot afford at this juncture. Therefore, consumption will have to be slashed, and fuel for public transport prioritized. Two ministers will fly to Russia today for discussions on fuel and related matters,” he said.The Minister said that bunker suppliers had been granted permission to deliver fuel for industries that deal in US currency.

He also said that overseas fuel companies based in countries that produce fuel, would be invited to set up business in Sri Lanka, as the CPC alone could not import fuel.

He said the CPC would become a more service-provider-based institution to facilitate fuel imports, and it had 9000 MT of diesel and the IOC 10,000 MT while the CPC had about 6000 MT of Petrol and the IOC about 8000 MT, of petrol.He said the IOC was issuing about 300 MT a day and their next shipment was due only after 10 July.

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Economic crisis: Govt. MPs slam Cabinet, Finance Ministry



‘How come SLPA paid to Treasury just a faction of massive revenue earned in six years?’

By Shamindra Ferdinando

T wo SLPP MPs, Dr. Nalaka Godahewa and Madura Vithanage have, at different forums, lashed out at the government for the rapidly deteriorating status of the public sector finance. Godahewa has warned that economic recovery will not be possible unless the government restructured nearly 400 loss making public sector enterprises or at least take tangible measures to cut down on recurring losses.The former Media Minister, who represents the Gampaha District, said so addressing a group of Gampaha-based professionals and entrepreneurs recently.

Alleging that the failure, on the part of the government to establish an all-party government, contributed to the further deterioration of the situation, Dr. Godahewa emphasized the urgent need to curb, what he called, unbridled corruption as part of the efforts to revive the economy.The Gampaha District MP asked whether the current dispensation has addressed the issues at hand with a sense of responsibility.The MP questioned the composition of the Cabinet-of-Ministers, especially the appointment of UNP leader Ranil Wickremesinghe as the Premier, in spite of his party having just one seat in Parliament, against the backdrop of even the government parliamentary group not being properly represented.

Dr. Godahewa warned that SriLankan Airlines, the Ceylon Electricity Board, and the Ceylon Petroleum Corporation (CPC) would deny the country an opportunity to recover as they remained a massive burden on taxpayers. The One-time top level private sector executive said that the Cabinet-of-Ministers lacked the strength to take crucial decisions. But, the situation would have been different if the Cabinet-of-Ministers included representatives of the main Opposition Samagi Jana Balavegaya (SJB) and other political parties. Dr. Godahewa declared that the government couldn’t take decisions on sensitive matters as long as it didn’t command political power.

Meanwhile, Colombo District MP Vithanage has questioned the responsibility, on the part of the Finance Ministry, in the overall deterioration of public sector finance with the focus on the handling of the Sri Lanka Ports Authority (SLPA) at a recent meeting of the Committee on Public Enterprises (COPE). The lawmaker alleged that the Finance Ministry had conveniently failed to make required intervention on behalf of the government, thereby deprived the opportunity to utilize SLPA profits.

Prof. Charitha Herath chaired the meeting. Auditor General W.P.C. Wickramaratne attended the meeting whereas Ports and Shipping Secretary K.D.S. Ruwanchandra led the SLPA team.Both MP Vithanage and Prof. Herath asserted that the Finance Ministry should have intervened on behalf of the people. The COPE examined how the SLPA continuously refrained from paying the Treasury at least the minimum amounts in spite of receiving massive profits over the years.  The Director General Public Enterprises, who has received that position recently, struggled to explain their failure to take up the non-transfer of SLPA profits to the Treasury. The COPE was told of Rs 69,686 mn revenue earned from 2016 to 2021, only 600 mn had been transferred to the Treasury.

Lawmaker Vithanage yesterday told The Island that the recent examinations of various enterprises and the Central Bank, by the COPE, as well as other watchdog committees, disclosed how the Finance Ministry, Central Bank and the Monetary Board contributed to the developing crisis. MP Vithanage pointed out even after the Covid-19 eruption devastated the economy, the SLPA had been able to withhold funds required by the Treasury for want of Finance Ministry intervention.Responding to queries, MP Vithanage said that the Parliament should act without further delay to ensure the Finance Ministry and the Monetary Board acted responsibly.

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Ceylon Chamber distributes dry rations



The Ceylon Chamber of Commerce’s ‘Diwiyata Diriyak’ social initiative provided emergency relief, in the form of 10,000 essential dry ration packs, to vulnerable families in the Kegalle and Colombo districts.

A press release from the Chamber said: Mobilising the Chamber’s Membership to assist low-income families that are struggling to survive the current crisis, the initial distribution, which took place at the Kegalle District Secretariat, was the first phase of Diwiyata Diriyak, which aims to provide 5,000 relief packs.

Containing essential items such as rice, lentils, sugar, wheat flour, canned fish, etc., costing Rs. 5,000 each, vulnerable families, identified by the respective District Secretaries in the Warakapola, Galigamuwa, Mawanella and Rambukkana DS divisions, were among the initial beneficiaries.

CEO and Secretary General of the Ceylon Chamber Manjula de Silva said that the Chamber was committed to supporting the public during this immensely challenging time, and would always strive to ensure that the most vulnerable in our society are protected.

Home Garden Starter Packs, sponsored by the CIC Group, were also distributed among the families, in order to assist and encourage home garden cultivation as a viable option to address the rapidly rising costs and predicted shortage of food items, the release said.

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