Successful harvest in Yala season – PMB chairman | Sunday Observer

Successful harvest in Yala season – PMB chairman

18 September, 2022
Neil De Alwis  (Pic by Malan Karunaratne)
Neil De Alwis (Pic by Malan Karunaratne)

The “Yala” season is showing signs of a successful harvest. Much more cultivated land than was initially unused was later cultivated after farmers received facilities such as seeds, water and fertiliser. As a result, harvesting has already begun, Neil De Alwis, Chairman of the Paddy Marketing Board (PMB) said.

Q: How is the present status of rice purchases?

Successful harvesting continues to be taking place across the country. When harvesting was done across the country at the same time in the past, more agriculture officers should have been hired to ensure bulk purchases, but this is no longer the case.

After hiring officers, we will be able to complete our purchases soon. We made high-priced purchases by employing officials from the areas where harvesting is done. Yala yielded roughly 70 percent of the expected amount this year.

Q: However, the farmers complain that the guaranteed price from the Government is insufficient?

Such stories are heard through the mass media. However, this time too, the Government decided on a guaranteed price with the participation of all parties, including farmer organisations and so on. After considering all the opinions, the price of paddy was decided in such a way that the farmers received Rs. 37.50 per kilogram.

On the other hand, it is a well-known fact that as soon as the price related to the purchase of rice is displayed, the price of rice in the private sector increases. Accordingly, the farmers get a good price. On the other hand, farmers are currently growing only for commercial purchases. The price of a kilogram of wheat, which was around Rs. 40, has been brought to a very high price by the Government in a short period of time.

Q: So why are farmers complaining now?

This time the guaranteed price was fixed only after adjusting the numbers following discussions with all parties. On the other hand, people generally feel that no matter how much income they receive, it is not enough.

It can happen to anyone. However, as a responsible institution of the Government, we cannot see only one side. It is our responsibility to protect the customer as well.

Q: How much money is needed for rice purchases?

It is approximately Rs.2,000 million. Currently the money through the State banks. Hence, it is a program that farmers will receive their money without any delay. Even when the small farming groups collected their crops and informed us arrangements were made to purchase crops from them as well. Also, farmers seem to be educated and are now willing to bring their produce to the marketing board’s warehouse.

Q: Payment for farmers towards transport costs, was it cut this time?

Not at all. I have already said that we have gathered together with farmers’ organisations and Government officials and a committee made up of various parties, to decide on the price of rice, transport, and so on. We arrived at the rice price only after including these costs. Farmers are being included in a formal program.

Q: However, some warn that the price of rice will rise in the future under inflation?

There is no room for that. The Government has not allowed traders to raise prices at will. This time about 30,000 metric tons of paddy have been kept as a safety stock. According to a direction of Minister Mahinda Amaraweera, the PMB is ready to take appropriate action anyone who deliberately hides the stock or increase prices. Therefore, we are working to fully fulfill that State responsibility this time as well.

Q: Can you elaborate on that?

Some time ago under the brand name “PMB RICE” excellent quality fresh rice was released to the market at a concessional price. The program, which had been stopped for some time, has been reactivated this time to the instructions of the Minister of Agriculture. We released fresh, unbroken rice to the market under State responsibility in 5 and 10 kilogram attractive packages. People can get them through the Sathosa, outlets and other supermarkets. Under the Government institutions such as the “Hadabima” Authority and the National Food Promotion Board, the people of Colombo and the suburbs have been given the opportunity to buy “PMB RICE” along with other products.

Q: What about the rice mill owners?

Under the public responsibility assigned to the PMB, efforts should be made to protect the small and medium-scale rice mill owners as well. Accordingly, the paddy we purchase is given to approximately about 400 small and medium-scale rice mill owners.

We later buy back those stocks from them at a higher price. It improves the living standards of the people. A program to register mill owners across the country is now in operation.

Q: Scholars point out that we should be ready in advance for the upcoming Maha season?

Yes. The Ministry of Agriculture has paid close attention to it. It is also seen that the farmers are preparing for harvesting a large number of fields. The Government is committed to this by providing fertiliser subsidies, organic fertiliser and other facilities.