May 13, Colombo: Sri Lankan President Gotabaya Rajapaksa has suggested establishing an agriculture unit in the Army to further support cultivation.
The President said the plantation sector has the potential to be a significant contributor to the recovery of the country's economy by working towards a target.
Addressing a meeting held at the Presidential Secretariat yesterday, President Rajapaksa explored ways of maximizing the productivity of the plantation sector while returning to normalcy and recommencing the economy.
Noting that the whole world is currently facing a severe crisis, the President observed that however, by taking steps such as restricting imports, the incumbent administration was able to meet the challenges.
He noted that many produce that the plantation sector could supply had been needlessly imported.
“It is important to understand that the plantation sector has a key role to play to build the local economy. Therefore, it is vital to quickly transform loss making plantations into profitable ventures,” President pointed out.
The reasons for Janatha Estate Board to be a loss making entity must be investigated. Progressive steps must be taken to secure adequate profits by regulating the exporting of timber from the Plantation Corporation, President instructed.
He stressed the importance of ensuring the food security for the people and also discussed at length the measures needed to promote exports.
Special attention should be paid to export oriented crops. “Plan to earn higher export incomes by adding value to major crops including cinnamon and pepper,” he instructed the officials.
“In 2018, the income from export crops was Rs 538 billion,” noted Minister of Plantation Industries and Export Agriculture Dr. Ramesh Pathirana. “The Ministry is hoping to build this to a Rs 753 billion industry by 2020.”
Coconut plantations, targeting both the local and export markets, will be developed, Dr. Pathirana said. In the North also, in places such as Pallai, Kilinochchi and Mullaitivu coconut cultivation has been most successful. Steps have also been taken to develop the cocoa and coffee sectors.
The President said cultivation can be further supported by establishing an agricultural unit in the army. He added that all export crops should be of very high standards.
At the meeting, the potential of the rural cashew cultivation to strengthen the rural economy, the need to reconstruct tanks to support the plantation sector and to involve the Ministry of Forest Conservation and Lands to help resolving issues faced by the Plantation sector were also discussed.
Secretary to the President P.B. Jayasundera, Principal Advisor to the President Lalith Weeratunga, Acting Secretary to the Ministry of Plantation Industries and a number of officers from institutions under the purview of the Ministry participated in the discussion.