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‘Primacy given in SL to primary production rendering the achievement of food security difficult’



Professor Buddhi Marambe

By Ifham Nizam

Sustainable food security is not an easy target to achieve in a country like Sri Lanka, where primary production has been given the priority, Professor Buddhi Marambe of the Department of Crop Science, Faculty of Agriculture, University of Peradeniya said.

Speaking to The Island Financial Review Marambe stressed that concerted efforts are required to achieve this target. Food security cannot be achieved entirely from national agricultural production.

Marambe added: ‘A country cannot be self-sufficient in all types of food to fulfill the needs of the people encircling all components of food security. Thus, food imports also play an important role in filling the demand and supply gap.

‘At this moment, Sri Lanka’s need is a national policy covering all aspects of agriculture, not only to overcome the current food and economic crisis that it experiences, but also to ensure that the whole nation will not fall a prey again to such man-made or natural disasters.

“What we require is a futuristic national policy that is evidence-based, to enhance confidence in all food-system actors and remove the uncertainties created in their minds due to faulty assurances given in the past by politicians and state agencies and help build dignity in a person as a player who contributes to national development. We need not think of doing wonders, but simply move away from extremist ideas, and face the reality, be pragmatic.

“Sri Lanka is famous in making national policies and action plans. However, their implementation is always a question due to lack of proper institutional coordination, monitoring, evaluation and reporting systems. People, including politicians, have rarely been made responsible and accountable for what they say, what decisions they make and impose.

“Hence, a future policy, especially in agriculture, should seriously consider the governance aspects in implementation. There should be a shared vision, responsibility and accountability of all individuals and institutions or entities on who is doing what, what is being done, and what is planned to be done, according to the national policy to support the progress of Sri Lanka’s economy.

“Sri Lanka went through a process to develop an Overarching Agriculture Policy (OAP), and the document was almost finalized in 2020. Food crops, perennial crops, plantation crops, livestock and poultry, fisheries, irrigation, agrarian development, and environment were the areas covered by the OAP, developed through a comprehensive stakeholder consultation process, considering the views from all actors in a food system.

“The consultations for the OAP started at the nine provinces, obtaining views from the ground-level staff, farming community, and then the national level stakeholders and the Department of National Planning (DNP) of the Ministry of Finance provided the required leadership.

“To the best of my knowledge, this is the first time that the DNP was fully involved from the initial stages of developing such a policy due to its cross-cutting nature. This is a timely and appropriate effort given the diverse nature of the broad subsectors covered in agriculture.

“A clear balance and inter-connectivity of subsectors are to be maintained for overall sustainability. The European Commission (EU) provided the required assistance. The OAP seems not moving forward, but it is the high time to bring it to the limelight to provide required guidance to develop the agricultural economy of Sri Lanka.

“We should improve agricultural productivity and production with a view to maximizing the contribution of agriculture to the country’s food security. The productivity achievement should accompany realistic goals. The cry from different sectors of society is for varieties and technologies when a crisis is imminent. We cannot come up with new varieties or breeds overnight. Even for a human child to be born there should be 9-10 months of gestation. A new crop variety in rice would take 6-8 years to be recommended and be released.

“A new cultivar of a crop like tea took about 25 years though now with technological advances, our scientists are able to shorten this gestation period to 18 years. Let us understand this reality. Genetic barriers are not easy to tackle. We need patience, but, proactive forward thinking would make the dream of sustainable food security a reality. Further, we do have a good crop cultivation plan, but should also focus on a post-harvest management plan done simultaneously before crying foul about post-harvest losses, especially during a glut of agricultural produce in the market. These are not based on rocket science or advanced philosophical thinking, but aspects that have been brought to the notice of policy makers on several occasions. Unfortunately, such propositions were not considered favourably.

“As a nation, we need to take our famers out of the cell by continually identifying them as ‘poor farmers’. We should make society understand that the ‘poor doing farming’ and the ‘farmer becoming poor’ are two different aspects. It is the latter that we need to address promptly. Indeed, poverty issues in the country should be addressed. However, agriculture is not the panacea to resolve all the problems of the poor, or the country as a whole. Entrepreneurial farming is the key to the future and needs to be promoted through careful articulation.

“The following seven aspects are priorities in a national policy leading to agriculture development and food security in the foreseeable future, considering crops (food and feed, perennial and plantation crops), animals (livestock, poultry and fisheries) and allied sectors:

“(1) Productivity enhancement of agriculture ecosystems through adoption of Good Agricultural Practices (GAP) and Good Animal Husbandry Practices (GAHP) to be demand-driven, while tackling food nutrition and safety and environment-related issues in production and product-processing.

(2) Development and adoption of climate-resilient crop varieties and animal breeds be supported while ensuring timely availability of inputs (e.g. seeds and planting material, fertilizer, pesticides, irrigation water, machinery for crops, feed and drinking water for animals).

(3) Efficient production technologies (e.g. protected agriculture, micro-irrigation, crop-animal integration, etc.) and value addition (e.g. GAP-certified products, and mechanized production and product-processing systems) be promoted with a special focus on youth and gender considerations.

(4) Efficiency of actors in the urban-rural connectivity in the food system be enhanced to reduce “food miles” (distance of food transport from producer to consumer), losses and prices through improved packaging and storage, and an efficient transportation system.

(5) A market-driven agriculture economy be supported through public-private-producer partnerships (PPPP) with targeted-subsidies, continued well-focused capacity building programmes and centrally-governed extension services.

(6) Dignity of the farming community and all other players in the food system be assured through mechanisms such as pension schemes, credit facilities with less hassle, supporting establishment of farmer companies, etc., where relevant.

(7) All actors in a food system, especially the politicians, officials of the state, private and non-governmental sector including academia and researchers/scientists, be made accountable and responsible for the decisions made and advocacies given in relation to agriculture.”

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HNB renews partnership with Prime Group for exclusive home loans



HNB Assistant General Manager - PFS, Kanchana Karunagama (fourth from left) and Prime Group Director – Corporate Affairs, Nalinda Heenatigala (fifth from left) exchanging the MoU in the presence of other officials

Paving the path for aspiring homeowners, Sri Lanka’s leading private sector bank, HNB PLC, renewed its long-standing partnership with local real estate giant Prime Group to offer investors exclusive deals and benefits.

The partnership will offer customers a range of benefits, including special interest rates during the September and October promotional period. The exclusive offer extends to all properties across Prime Group’s extensive portfolio, including highly anticipated Prime Residencies projects, such as The Grand Ward Place, The Beachfront Uswetakeiyawa II and 43 by the Sea on Marine Drive, Dehiwala.

“Building your own home in Sri Lanka can be quite a challenge. The escalating costs of construction, driven by rising inflation, have added to the struggle. We at HNB remain steadfast in our commitment to empower every Sri Lankan to own a home of their own. As such, we are delighted to partner with Prime Group again to offer our customers affordable financing options and exceptional services,” HNB Assistant General Manager – Personal Financial Services (PFS), Kanchana Karunagama, said.

Delivering the best value to its customers, HNB will offer special interest rates during the promotional period. Prospective homeowners can make use of convenient and flexible repayment options tailor-made to their budgets, together with doorstep mortgage advisory services provided by the Bank’s dedicated agents, who will assist with the legal documentation needed for the facility.

“As Prime Group, our mission is to empower Sri Lankans with the chance to achieve homeownership, allowing them to find stability and make the most of these challenging times. Therefore, it is a pleasure for us to partner with HNB in serving our customers,” Prime Group Director – Corporate Affairs Nalinda Heenatigala said.

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SLT-MOBITEL empowers Apple iPhone users across Sri Lanka to embrace 5G revolution



SLT-MOBITEL is providing a groundbreaking opportunity, enabling customers with latest Apple iPhone devices to experience the best of 5G technology through its state-of-the-art 5G trial network. Apple users who have 5G compatible iPhone devices and with the latest iOS 17 update can now experience 5G when they are in a SLT-MOBITEL 5G trial zone.

Recognising 5G as a game-changer, SLT-MOBITEL was the first to trial 5G technology in South Asia in 2018 and has been at the forefront of the 5G revolution in Sri Lanka ever since. Recently, SLT-MOBITEL expanded its 5G pre-commercial trial network across main cities including Colombo, Kandy, Anuradhapura, Galle, and Jaffna, setting pathways for customers to seamlessly explore the possibilities of 5G technology.

Celebrating the new offering, SLT-MOBITEL is providing its customers with an amazing 10GB of free trial data on the lightning-fast 5G network. The trial data allows users to explore the capabilities of 5G without an initial cost and harness the full power of 5G technology, unlocking a world of new possibilities.SLT-MOBITEL extends a special invitation to customers who own 5G enabled iPhone 12 devices and beyond, to seize this exciting opportunity and become part of the 5G revolution by updating their eligible iOS device.

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SLPA poised as an exemplary model for SOEs, says its chairman



A group photograph taken at the Annual Performance Review Meeting (APRM) of SLPA

Keith D. Bernard – the Chairman of Sri Lanka Ports Authority (SLPA), welcoming the attendees as chair, made this comments at the Annual Performance Review Meeting (APRM) of SLPA for the year 2022. The meeting was held on September 14, 2023, at its headquarters in Colombo.Entities incorporated under any statute other than the Companies Act must have an APRM every year where the annual report is presented. The Sri Lanka Ports Authority (SLPA) was established under Act No. 51 of 1970.

In terms of the Guidelines for Corporate Governance of PED Circular No. 1/2021 dated November 16, 2021, it is important that the State-Owned Enterprises (SOEs) maintain continuous communication with their stakeholders at all times through mandatory requirements such as the Annual Report. Such disclosure of information ensures transparency and accountability without compromising any statutory or operational requirements of the entity.

Speaking at the event, the Chairman of SLPA expressed his perspective on the organisation’s future direction. He acknowledged SLPA’s recent achievements and progress in completing the East Container Terminal (ECT) and stressed the need for strategic planning with government support for the future.

“At present, SLPA serves as the regulator, operator, and landlord of our ports. In our capacity as the landlord, we possess assets throughout the country, and all commercial ports fall under the purview of SLPA. Additionally, we compete directly with private operators as operators ourselves. Therefore, we must carefully consider whether our role as operators should remain independent or involve collaboration with other operators. It’s crucial that we approach this strategically and define our precise role in this sector for the future,” he said.

Bernard also highlighted the significance of conducting a self-assessment in the pursuit of good governance within the organisation.

“We have commendable ministerial support and boast a talented team of dedicated professionals who tirelessly work towards the success of our port. While we have encountered challenges in the past, we are confident that, leveraging our strengths, we can overcome any hurdles. SLPA has the potential to serve as an exemplary model for the private sector, leading the way and becoming a guiding beacon for all institutions in Sri Lanka,” he said.

The Additional Director General of the Department of Public Enterprises – B.A.T. Rodrigo, commenting at the event, mentioned that in comparison to the other state-owned enterprises (SOEs) in Sri Lanka, SLPA is the leading SOE amongst them and has been a role model to other SOEs. He wished SLPA would continue doing so in the future. He also thanked the Chairman, the Board of Directors, and the Management of SLPA for arranging the APRM adhering to the good governance guidelines.

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