Sri Lanka 2021 main season rice expected at 2.8mn tonnes: Minister

BUMPER HARVEST: Sri Lanka is projecting a rice surplus after good rains in 2018 and 2019. But Sri Lanka rice is almost non-tradable.

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka is expecting a rough rice (paddy) harvest of 2.8 million metric tons of rice in the main 2021 (Maha) cultivation season, Agriculture Minister Mahindananda Aluthgamage said, which would be about 8 percent less than last year.

In the 2020 Maha season Sri Lanka harvested an estimated 3.051 million tonnes of paddy.

Minister Aluthgamage said the forecast was made on information on 668,400 hectares cultivated in the season. The peak target for Maha is usually about 840,000 hectares.

An earlier crop forecast based on November data said cultivation this year was about 10 percent below average.

He said the paddy would be enough to produce about 1.9 million metric tonnes of milled rice.

“If we take the population of the country, monthly we need 195,000 metric tons” Minister Aluthgamage said.

“We will start purchasing the harvest in February. And we will be producing paddy for the next 10 months from February onwards from this single season.”

State-run Paddy Marketing Board and district secretariat office is planning to purchase about 300,000 metric tonnes of paddy in the current season, he said.

Minister said the cabinet approval was given to purchase Nadu rice for 50 rupees a kilogram Samba for 52 rupees per kilogram and paddy with a higher moisture content will be purchased at 47 rupees per kilogram.

“The cost of one kilogram of rice for a farmer is 28 rupees,” Minister Aluthgamage said. “Therefore, 50 rupees per kilogram is very good price for the farmer.”

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Paddy purchases will begin from Batticaloa district later this month.

“We plan to purchase 300,000 tonnes but we will most probably go to 400,000 thereby we will have enough rice for two months at any given time of the year,” he said.

“After this, again the Yala season will come and with that harvest we will have enough rice for another one and half years. Therefore, there will not be any rice shortage in the country.”

The Yala minor cultivation season generates about half the production.

Rice stocks in government warehouses are sometimes infested with insects and are not disposed of in times resulting in losses.

Minister Aluthgamage said in the past rice had been sold for animal feed, but it will not happen now.

Due to years of protection and self-sufficiency strategy Sri Lankan rice is not of good enough quality to export for human consumption.

Countries like Vietnam, Thailand and US dominate the world trade for high quality rice.

This February Vietnam is importing 70 metric tonnes of rice from India for animal feed. Indian rice is cheaper than Vietnam rice which has an export market.

Production of what is called ‘low grade rice’ in Vietnam had fallen sharply to about 15 to 20 percent of output from over half five years ago.

Vietnam is expecting to produce 43 million metric tonnes of rice in 2021. Vietnam is now importing Indian broken rice.

Indian broken rice is imported for around 310 dollar a tonne, compared to an export price of over 500 dollars for Vietnam 5 percent broken rice, reports said. (Colombo/Jan13/2021)

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