Spike in feed prices push small and medium poultry farms to the brink of closure
by Suresh Perera
With import restrictions pushing up poultry feed prices to an all-time high, a grave shortage of chicken and eggs is anticipated in the short term as small and medium scale producers are finding it increasingly difficult to keep pace with soaring production costs, a senior industry official warned.
A 50% drop in production has been projected within a few months as moderate farms are now unable to sustain their businesses and will eventually close down, says Ajith Gunasekara, president of the All Island Poultry Association.
“The reverberations will be felt in December when the demand balloons during Christmas”, he predicted.
He said that Sri Lanka produces only half of the poultry industry’s demand for maize, the main ingedient of poultry feed.
With consignments from India and Ukraine no longer coming due to import restrictions, the disruption in supplies has seen a spike in prices for the local produce.
A kilogram of maize has climbed to anything between Rs. 90-95 in the marketplace due to the non-availability of imports at competitive pricing, he said. “This will sound the death knell to small-time poultry farms”.
In any poultry farm, feed absorbs 70% of the operational cost, Gunasekara stressed. “Apart from maize, producers also have to procure soya, corn and vitamins at substantial cost for the feed combination”.
The prevailing Covid-19 related travel restrictions have also aggravated the crisis the poultry industry is grappling with as the continued closure of wholesale distribution points have crippled supplies to the retail chain, he complained.
This means the retail trade has no access to the produce to supply traders and mobile vendors who have been declared essential services to service consumers, he said.
There are a multitude of ‘meat shops’ run by poultry producers island-wide, but they have no stocks as wholesalers, who collect chicken from farms, have not been authorized to operate during the travel restrictions, he protested.
Those in the chicken processing business are also facing immense hardships as they have not been permitted to operate, he explained. “Overall, the losses suffered by the industry will be enormous”.
Retailers cannot be expected to collect stocks from farms in the provinces even if they are able to make it as they don’t have either freezer trucks or necessary storage facilities, Gunasekara pointed out. “Moreover, visits to farms have been restricted due to Covid-19 preventive measures”.
“We have asked the government to intervene in the matter as the industry is in deep trouble with skyrocketing poultry feed prices pinning down producers on the one hand and accumulating stocks in storage facilities on the other”, he noted.
He said that traders have also been dealt a big financial blow with stocks of chicken in their deep freezers no longer fit for consumption.
The farm gate price is Rs. 430 per kilogram of chicken (whole bird), but despite a MRP (Maximum Retail Price) of Rs. 550 in terms of the price control mechanism, it is being sold for Rs. 700 per kilo these days due to procurement difficulties, he continued.
The reluctance of people to eat fish due to contamination fears following the X-Press Pearl disaster has also triggered a bigger demand for chicken. Unlike fish, cooked chicken can be refrigerated and eaten for about a week by an average family, Gunasekara elaborated.
He said the annual demand for chicken is between 15,000 to 18,000 metric tons. There’s an annual surge of up to 18,000MT during the April-December festive season.
The production of eggs ranges from 700,000 to 800,000 per day. Purchased at a farm gate price of Rs. 12-14 each, retailers at present sell each for Rs. 20.
“We were prepared for a two-week lockdown, but with the continued closure, the situation is getting more desperate by the day”, he said.
SRI LANKA RECEIVES IMF EXECUTIVE BOARD APPROVAL FOR THE EXTENDED FUND FACILITY (EFF) ARRANGEMENT
The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has announced that the IMF Executive Board approved Sri Lanka’s program under the Extended Fund Facility (EFF). The program will allow Sri Lanka to access financing of up to US$ 7 billion from the IMF, International Financial Institutions (IFIs) and multilateral organizations.
This is a historic milestone for the country as the Government seeks to restore macroeconomic stability and achieve debt sustainability. Earlier this month, Sri Lanka received IMF-compatible financing assurances from its official creditors, including Paris Club members, India and China, allowing the IMF to convene an Executive Board and consider Sri Lanka’s request for a loan. The program is expected to provide much-needed policy space to drive the economy out of the unprecedented challenges and instill confidence amongst all the stakeholders.
MPs urged to defeat move to conduct Law College exams only in English medium
Ali Sabry responds to accusations
By Shamindra Ferdinando
Opposition MP Gevindu Cumaratunga yesterday (19) alleged that the Wickremesinghe-Rajapaksa government was going ahead with a project launched by former Justice Minister Ali Sabry with the backing of President Gotabaya Rajapaksa to conduct Law College examinations only in the English medium, much to the disadvantage of Sinhala and Tamil students.
Addressing the media at Sri Sambuddhathwa Jayanthi Mandiraya at Thunmulla, the leader of civil society group Yuthukama urged all political parties, regardless of whatever differences, to vote against extraordinary gazette notification of 2020 Dec 30 No 22018/13 to be submitted to Parliament by Sabry’s successor, Dr. Wijeyadasa Rajapakse, PC, tomorrow (21).
The SLPP National List MP said that those who represented the interests of the South, the North as well as the Upcountry could reach a consensus on the issue at hand quite easily.
Responding to The Island query, lawmaker Cumaratunga said that Uththara Lanka Sabhagaya, consisting of a section of rebel SLPP MPs, backed the campaign to protect the language rights of Sinhala and Tamil communities. The first-time entrant to Parliament said that MPs with a conscience couldn’t back this move, under any circumstances, whichever the party they represented.
At the onset of the media briefing, MP Cumaratunga said that the denial of language rights of current and future students was a grave violation of the Constitution-Article 12 and Article 18. In terms of Article 12, no one should be discriminated against on the basis of language whereas Article 18 recognized Sinhala and Tamil as National Languages with English being the linking language.
Alleging that the previous Gotabaya Rajapaksa goverenment planned to implement the controversial law even without securing parliamentary approval, lawmaker Cumaratunga appreciated Minister Wijeyadasa Rajapakse’s decision to place it before parliament.
The civil society activist said that this despicable move should be examined against the backdrop of growing external interventions as the country struggled to cope up with the developing political-economic-social crisis. The passage of the new law could cause further deterioration of parliament, MP Cumaratunga said, adding that the House faced a serious credibility issue.
“How could elected MPs whichever party they represented back a move that directly affected the concerned communities,”? Lawmaker Cumaratunga asked.
Referring to a recent call by the Justice Minister to discuss the issue at hand, MP Cumaratunga said that among those present on the occasion were Attorney General Sanjay Rajaratnam, PC, and Dr. Athula Pathinayake, Principal of Law College. “Those who opposed this move asked Dr. Athula Pathinayake what he really intended to achieve by conducting Law College examinations in English, only. However, the Law College Principal failed to provide a plausible response,” the MP said.
Responding to strong criticism of their stand, MP Cumaratunga stressed that the importance of English as a language couldn’t be underestimated. But, ongoing efforts to promote English shouldn’t be at the expense of Sinhala and Tamil, MP Cumaratunga said, questioning lawmakers’ right to deprive Sinhala and Tamil communities of basic rights.
Ratnapura District SLPP MP Gamini Waleboda said that an influential section of the Bar Association of Sri Lanka (BASL) was behind this move. In a note dated March 17, addressed to all members of parliament urged them to defeat the contemptible move.
Lawmaker Waleboda said that there was no prohibition for those who wanted to sit law examinations in English. There was absolutely no issue over that but the bid to deny the language rights of those who wanted to sit examinations in Sinhala and Tamil was not acceptable under any circumstances. According to him, the BASL hadn’t consulted its membership regarding this move.
MP Cumaratunga also questioned the failure on the part of the apex court to make available to Parliament its interpretations in Sinhala. The Supreme Court continues to provide such clarifications in English only.
Responding to MP Cumaratunga’s allegation that he with the backing of the then President Gotabaya Rajapaksa resorted to action to make English compulsory for those studying at the Law College, incumbent Foreign Minister Sabry said: “That’s not correct. It is the council of legal education which formulates regulations. The council consists of CJ, two senior SC judges, AG, SG, Secretary Justice and six senior lawyers of vast knowledge and experience.
In terms of the constitution all higher education institutions can decide the language of studies and education. That’s how medical faculty, engineering faculty, IT faculty and management faculty conduct studies in English. Already Peradeniya and Jaffna universities do legal studies in English. It is good to do it, that’s how they become competitive. Even in India all legal faculties are in English. “
The President’s Counsel alleged that the kith and kin of certain people articulating this position received their education in English. The minister questioned why politicians get involved in this issue if the council of legal education made the relevant suggestion.
No power cuts due to N’cholai unit failure – Minister
By Ifham Nizam
The breakdown of the Unit Three of the First Coal Fired Power Plant Complex in Norochcholai 270 MW intake of the 300MW will cost an additional Rs. 20 a unit due to thermal power generation, says the Ceylon Electricity Board (CEB). “It will cost the CEB Rs. 96 million extra a day while the Norochcholai machine is out of order,” a senior Electrical Engineer told The Island.
Power and Energy Minister Kanchana Wijesekera yesterday said Unit 3 of the Norochcholai Coal Power Plant had failed. He said the CEB had informed him of the breakdown, but he said there would be no power cuts.
“The Unit 3 was due to undergo major overhaul maintenance in April. To ensure an uninterrupted power supply, the CEB-owned Diesel and Fuel Oil Power plants will be used,” the minister said.
The Norochcholai Power Plant has experienced breakdowns several times on previous occasions as well.The first generator at the power plant was shut down on December 23, last year to manage the coal stocks and for maintenance purposes.
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