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* US assistance to improve dairy production in Eastern Sri Lanka
Wed, Jun 22, 2011, 07:08 pm SL Time, ColomboPage News Desk, Sri Lanka.

June 22, Batticaloa: The United States has recently provided aid to the dairy farmers in Eastern Sri Lanka in an effort to promote dairy production.

The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) has delivered milk storage cans and collection trucks that will help the dairy farmers to improve their participation in the dairy value chain.

The USAID has delivered the trucks to two farmer-owned milk collection centers in Batticaloa district and provided the storage cans to two milk producer groups in the Batticaloa and Polonnaruwa districts, a press statement from the U.S. Embassy in Colombo said.

According to Priyanka Dissanayake, USAID Project Management Specialist, these investments are part of USAID's Dairy Enhancement in the Eastern Province (DEEP) Project, a partnership with the U.S.-based Land O'Lakes and Sri Lankan CIC Agri Businesses.

"By connecting farmers to value chains, DEEP works to increase dairy production and improve farmers' incomes in the East," she explained.

Many farmers have received grants to directly improve dairy production, typically by buying a cow, constructing cattle sheds, or developing their water supply and pasture land.

"Before the project started, farmers were getting an average 29 rupees per liter of milk. With this project, farmers are now earning 49 rupees per liter," noted Dissanayake.

As part of DEEP's small grants program, Dissanayake also handed over a check for 960,000 rupees to the farmers.

The USAID Mission Director, James Bednar, said the project can help improve the milk supply, and it will put more money in the pockets of smallholder farmers.

According to USAID, DEEP helps farmers strengthen their position in the market by mobilizing them to organize into milk producer groups. So far 42 producer groups have been created.

The project provides training and equipment for the farmers so they can produce more milk and sell it at a better price. The project is also standing up four milk collection centers which will be owned by the milk producer groups and will link producers to regular buyers of raw milk, the statement said.

Since 2009, the project has distributed small grants averaging 20,000 rupees to over 2,100 dairy farmers.

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