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Tuesday December 5th, 2023

US ready to support Sri Lanka agriculture biotechnology: Cindy McCain

ECONOMYNEXT – The United States is ready to help Sri Lanka advance agriculture US Ambassador Cindy McCain said during a visit to an Agri biotechnology lab at the University of Peradeniya.

The UN’s Food and Agricultural Organization had already supported the lab.

“I am so pleased to see that FAO is a large part of this as not just a donor but is also very invested in what is going on here,” Ambassador McCain who is the US Permanent Representative to the UN agencies in Rome said in a recent visit to Sri Lanka.

“The work that you are doing is ground-breaking and necessary. I would love to hear more about what your plans are, where we as the United States can be more helpful, if that’s the case and also how this fits in for the food crisis happening now.”

Sri Lanka’s domestic food production fell in 2021 after a fertilizer ban.

Though supplies are improving in 2022, less affluent sections of society can no longer afford food – especially proteins – after Sri Lanka’s soft-peg with the US dollar collapsed from 200 to 360 after two years of money printing.

Inflation has now outpaced wages, creating ‘food insecurity.

Officials of the Agriculture Faculty of the university have prepared a long-term strategic work model to revive the fallen food and agriculture sector.

The strategy recommends an enhancement of availability and accessibility to seed stock, chemical fertilizer and pesticides, fuel, and animal feed through a proposed ration system.

Employing gene-based technologies and bio-technological interventions to enhance plant and animal productivity and reduce post-harvest losses and pest damage and adopting a “system biology” approach to improve the quantity and quality of yields are parts of the strategy.

The implementation of the Overarching Agricultural Policy (OAP) for Sri Lankan agriculture sector was recommended to aid the agriculture sector in the long run.

The plan focuses on food supply, agricultural exports, trading, and research and development.

“When preparing it we have taken into account the overall current context and the demands of the country,” M.D Lamawansa, Vice-Chancellor, University of Peradeniya said.

Prof. M.D. Lamawansa (Vice Chancellor, University of Peradeniya), Ambassador Cindy McCain (Ambassador to the United Nations Agencies for Food and Agriculture), Ambassador Julie Chung (US Ambassador to Sri Lanka), Prof. S.S. Kodituwakku (Dean, Faculty of Agriculture), Prof. Pradeepa Bandaranayake (Director, Agricultural Biotechnology Centre).

The price of Sri Lanka’s key food crops, rice and maize, which is the main raw material for animal feed has been kept higher than the rest of the world to ‘save foreign exchange through import controls, keeping food prices permanently high.

“We have to support the export-oriented agriculture if we want to retain the much-needed foreign exchange with us,” Buddhi Marambe, Professor of the Department of Crop Science told Ambassador McCain who was accompanied by US Ambassador to Sri Lanka Julie Chung.

“What we’ve just seen in your biotechnology lab is truly amazing and to see the state-of-the-art technology equipment donated by the FAO,” Chung said. “And of course, the United States is the largest donor to FAO and I believe a lot of this equipment just arrived two months ago,”

An FAO/WFP Crop and Food Assessment Mission to Sri Lanka reports that 6.3 million people in the country are currently food insecure as of September following the collapse of the currency and forex shortages.

Sri Lanka is struggling to import enough fertilizer for the upcoming Maha season due to forex shortages.

“We categorically advise the government, in this Maha season, if at all the resources are limited, then look at tea as our main food crop, maize as our main animal feed crop,” Marambe said.

Classical economists and analysts have called for a flexible inflation targeting framework with output gap targeting (stimulus) which caused three currency crises and drove a country at peace to default to be junked in favour of a more credible externally anchored regime.

A credible single anchor regime will protect the poor from currency depreciation, keep inflation low and allow free trade and free movement of the capital end.

It will also end the need to ‘save foreign exchange at the expense of import controls on food and malnutrition. (Colombo/Oct03/2022)

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  1. Gehan says:

    Sounds like the prelude to making our farmers and country rely on sterile seeds, chemical fertiliser, weedicides and a dependency culture on large multinationals for food security.

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  1. Gehan says:

    Sounds like the prelude to making our farmers and country rely on sterile seeds, chemical fertiliser, weedicides and a dependency culture on large multinationals for food security.

Sri Lanka rupee closes stronger at 327.40/90 to the US dollar

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka’s rupee closed at 327.40/90 to the US dollar on Tuesday, from 328.10/30 the previous day, dealers said.

Bond yields were stable.

A bond maturing on 01.06.2025 closed at 13.60/70 percent from 13.70/14.00 percent.

A bond maturing on 01.08.2026 closed at 13.90/14.00 percent from 13.90/14.10 percent.

A bond maturing on 15.01.2027 closed at 14.00/15 percent from 14.00/14.10 percent.

A bond maturing on 01.07.2028 closed at 14.10/20 percent from 14.20/35 percent.

A bond maturing on 15.05.2030 closed at 14.20/35 percent, from 14.25/45 percent.

A bond maturing on 01.07.2032 closed at 14.10/35 percent, from 14.05/40 percent. (Colombo/Dec5/2023)

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Sri Lanka stocks close down as investor sentiment dips

ECONOMYNEXT – The Colombo Stock Exchange closed down on Tuesday, CSE data showed.

The All Share Price Index was down 0.40 percent, or 43.50 points, at 10,700.09.

The S&P SL20 index was up 0.43 percent, or 13.32 points, at 3,054.41.

Turnover was at 711 million. The capital goods sector contributed 172 million, the food, beverage and tobacco sector contributed 140 million, and banks 113 million of this.

Top positive contributors to the ASPI in the day were John Keells Holdings Plc (up at 193.00), Richard Pieris And Company Plc (up at 19.80), and Nation Lanka Finance Plc, (up at 0.40).

Negative contributors were Commercial Bank of Ceylon Plc (down at 89.70), Sampath Bank Plc (down at 71.00), and Central Finance Company Plc, (down at 106.00). (Colombo/Dec5/2023).

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Sri Lanka plans to reduce number of school grades from 13 to 12

ECONOMYNEXT – The Ministry of Education proposes to reduce the number of school grades from 13 to 12, according to a government information department statement.

“Every child will be given the opportunity to finish school in 17 years through the proposed new education reforms,” education officials were quoted as saying after a discussion on budget allocations.

Under the proposed system, pre-school education will be at the age of 4 years, the primary section between grades 1-5, junior section between grades 6-8, and senior section between grades 9-12.

The General Certificate of Education Ordinary Level Exam (GCE O/L) is proposed to be conducted in grade 10, and the Advanced Level Examination in grade 12.

It has also been decided to reduce the number of mandatory subjects at the GCE O/L Exam from 9 to 7.

Three new subjects, information and communication technology (ICT), technical and professional skills, and religion and values will be made mandatory and included in those 7 subjects. (Colombo/Dec5/2023)

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