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

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‘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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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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