Sri Lanka dairy farms hit by protectionist tax on quality feed

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka’s dairy farmers who try to grow high yield milch cows cannot be given proper feed due to protectionist taxes on maize imports and domestically produced grain is of a grain more suited for human consumption, a top farming company official said.

“We have to import dehydrated maize from abroad due to the lack of the proper nutrients in the locally produced maize,” Binesh Pananwala, Chief Executive, Watawala Plantations PLC said at a meeting of a Sri Lanka newly set up All Island Dairy Association.

“Even though the Ministry of Livestock and Rural Development has given permission, the ministry of Agriculture has been blocking us.”

Sri Lanka has slapped import duties on maize to ‘protect’ maize farmers, in the process pushing up costs of poultry and dairy products, analysts say killing a potential food export industry.

It is a classic example of how protectionism make countries, uncompetitive.

Since the ‘final product’ of one industry is the ‘raw material’ for another, it is a classic example of how protectionism and government regulations push up costs and hold back countries and industries.

Sri Lanka’s government has also imported thousands of cattle from Australia in one program and distributed them to small farmers in bid to boost domestic milk output.

But many small farmers did not have the know-how to look after them and also lacked feed.

Even large farms, who know how to look after foreign cattle breeds, cannot access the right foods due to protectionism.

Meanwhile Pananwala said that in the absence of high quality feed, cattle will not be fully productive and the industry will be facing a risk.

“We should look for cheaper options to get down dehydrated maize,” he said.

In August the cabinet permitted the National Food Promotion Board, a state-run agency, to import 50,000 metric tonnes of maize to be distributed on request to animal husbandry companies.

Sri Lanka has a herd of 1.3 million cattle of which 642,000 milch cows. However most domestic cattle produce only a few bottle of milk due to low quality feed, heat stroke as well as being breeds which cannot produce large volumes of milk.

High quality breeds can produce over 20 litres of milk or more a day if property looked after, fed and kept cool.

Sri Lanka has an estimated demand requires 745 million litres of milk a year. Domestic production is estimated at 430 million litres. (Colombo/Nov06/2019)