ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka’s land acquisition law must be changed to benefit large and small scale cultivators, President Ranil Wickremesinghe said , calling for the modernisation of agriculture.
“We have to ensure the security of the land. So we bring legislation where people who are given land will have the security of tenure. It cannot be taken away just by the government. There will have to be a process to be followed and a remedy in court, which is a guarantee you have for any land in Sri Lanka,” Wickremesinghe said speaking at an event in Colombo on Friday November 18.
“It will be equal to any freehold land that you have. The government’s land acquisition law has to be changed. Those we will do. Then we have to build up a new system, not merely for large-scale agriculture, but also for the smallholders.”
According to a study done by CropLife Asia, 25% of the farmers had considered leaving the industry due to the complexities posed while remaining in the sector such as a 67 percent increase in spending. Over 60 percent of farmers had to push prices.
Sri Lanka’s Land Acquisition law states: “Where the Minister decides that land in any area is needed for any public purpose, he may direct the acquiring officer of the district in which that area lies to cause a notice, to be exhibited in some conspicuous places in that area.”
Professor Buddhi Marambe of the Faculty of Agriculture at the University of Peradeniya told EconomyNext on October 29 that Sri Lanka is unable to invest in high product yield machinery for agriculture due to high cost of machinery and capital and Sri Lanka naming itself as a middle income country
“We downgraded ourselves and no one is willing to give us grants and loans,” said Marambe.
President Wickremesinghe has decided to keep the middle income status which has affected the ability for the country to seek assistance for the agriculture sector, the academic said.
After a controversial and poorly implemented fertilizer ban, Sri Lanka’s agriculture sector was left in tatters with low levels of yield.
“Modern and updated technology is costly. The yield we are achieving right now is all right, but the only way to boost the yield further would be through technology in agriculture,” said Marambe.
“Technology is not cheap and getting cheap technology would not bring up anticipated targets and return on investment.”
Sri Lanka is aiming for self-sufficiency by 2023 in rice and green gram.
“Self-sufficiency is a nice word to use but we should not forget that our people not only eat rice. Concentrating on one stream will not result in self-sufficiency. We should make sure the contribution of agriculture is maximised in terms of achieving food security.”
“Self-sufficiency is a political term and would be a great achievement, if it was met,” said Marambe. (Colombo/No19/2022)
A similar act was done Dudley Senanayake government, where a grow more food campaign was initiated. Many hundreds of acres of virgin jungle land were given to the private sector for such development. Instead, they were given even vehicle permits and the forests were cleared of prime valuable trees and sold for timber. Those vehicles were mostly seen in Colombo, and were a status symbol, so much so for the food.