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Sri Lanka looking to counter Boothaya, Tsunami water on paddy

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka is looking to counter the problem where farmers cannot get a guaranteed price due to higher moisture content in paddy (rough rice) coming from mechanical harvesters, State Minister for Public Distribution and Economic Affairs Harsha de Silva said.

Amid labour shortages, Sri Lankan farmers are increasingly relying on mechanical cutters and combine harvesters generally known as Boothaya (devil) or Tsunami in the farming community.

Unlike in the old days when rice was dried before threshing and after, mechanical harvesters threshed the paddy on the run and combine harvesters also winnowed paddy allowing for grain to be bagged immediately, leaving a high moisture content.

“It is true that paddy from Boothaya and tsunami has a moisture content as much as 22 per cent,” de Silva admitted.

“When there is high moisture content, millers will not pay the guaranteed price. The guaranteed price is based on a moisture content of 14 per cent. We are addressing the problem by introducing dryers.”

He said 10 dryers would be introduced in the initial pilot project.

Since most economic problems in the world that are not solved by the community quickly are due to regulations set by the coercive power of the state that prevents solutions, de Silva was asked by a reporter why different guaranteed prices based on the moisture content are not declared.

“That is something we are looking at,” de Silva said. “We want to introduce a range of prices.”

Sri Lanka has set a farmgate price of 41 rupees a kilo for Samba and 39 rupees for Nadu, but some millers were paying prices as low as 36 rupees a kilo.

The rice yield of paddy depends on the water content and also the size of the seed. In sunny areas in the East, the rice yields are higher and blunt one size fits all prices have no meaning, analysts say.

It may take about 1.6 kilograms of paddy to make a kilo of rice.

De Silva said a committee was also looking to see whether the guaranteed price should be raised.

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