The Committee of Experts appointed to formulate a National Agricultural Policy met yesterday for the first time at the Horticultural Crops Research Institute of Gannoruwa. It met under the leadership of the Minister of Agriculture Honorable Mahindananda Aluthgamage. The Committee appointed with 13 members is comprising of the experts in various fields including the experts in the field of agriculture. The Committee chaired by Dr. Ajantha de Silva who is the Additional Secretary to the Ministry of Agriculture includes Dr. W.M.W. Weerakoon who is the Director General of Agriculture and W.M.M.B. Weerasekera who is the Commissioner General of Agrarian Development and the scholars like Professor P.I. Yapa of the University of Sabaragamuwa and Senior Professor Buddhi Marambe and Senior Professor Palitha Weerakkody of the University of Peradeniya, and the Vice Chancellor of the Wayambe University Prof. Udith K. Jayasinghe and Professor M.B. Rathnathilaka, Dr. B.V.R. Punyawardena, Dr. D.S. Kuruppu Arachchi, Dr. Yasintha Mapatuna and Rizvi Sahid of the University of Peradeniya. The appointment of Mr. Samarakoon who is the Chairman of the National Federation of Farmers' Organizations for this Committee to represent the agriculture community is also a special feature.
The Minister of Agriculture Mahindananda Aluthgamage requested the Committee to formulate the National Agriculture Policy in the interest of the nation within three months irrespective of political differences or any other influences. The Minister also asked the Committee of Experts to formulate this National Policy within a short period of 3 months. He said that he had introduced a National Policy on sports in 2010 during his tenure as the Minister of Sports and that it had brought about a tremendous positive changes in the field of sports in Sri Lanka. Therefore the Minister asked this Committee of Experts to do necessary intervenes to make the National Agriculture Policy which is spoken from time to time into a reality. The Minister pointed out that the National Agriculture Policy is essential for the development of a productive economy instead of a self-sufficient and import economy free from non-toxic foods mentioned in the Vision of Prosperity. Minister of Agriculture Mahindananda Aluthgamage highlighted that His Excellency the President Gotabaya Rajapakshe is in serious attempt to have a National Agriculture Policy that can remain unchanged with agriculture policies due to the effect of the change of governments which be prepared quickly and get the same passed in Parliament and needs to implement a national unchangeable work-plan and therefore he asked this Committee of Experts to provide necessary assistance to the government.
The Vice Chancellor of Wayamba University Prof. Udith K. Jayasinghe pointed out that a National Agricultural Policy was formulated in 2003, 2007 and 2010 but it did not come into reality. Prof. Udith K. Jayasinghe stated that a National Agricultural Policy that suits the country, including its locality, environment, health, our farmers, new technology, making the farmer an entrepreneur is essential instead of downloading and presenting an agricultural policy of Canada, Israel or any other country through the internet and presenting it in the name of our country. Prof. Udith K Jayasinghe pointed out that it is apt for this Committee to meet once a month or in an appropriate time to take decisions on agriculture and not being limited only for formulation of a National Agricultural Policy and he further added that many developed countries of the world are doing so.
Professor P.I. Yapa said that large sums of money are being spent by farmers to buy fertilizers, pesticides and weedicides as well as seeds and therefore he proposed here that those things should be included in a new policy towards local production. He further stated that such measures should be taken as a national interest of the country in order to save a large sum of money flowing into other countries and to enrich the hands of the farmers.
The Chairman of the National Agrarian Federation Mr. S.M.G. Samarakoon who is representing the Committee on behalf of the farmers said that throughout history a problem has been in referring the views, suggestions, problems of the grass-root farmers to the administrators. Minister Mahindananda Aluthgamage informed the President of the Farmers' Federation Mr. Samarakoon that such views of the farmers should be filed and submitted to the Committee and that all relevant assistance would be provided.
The Committee of Experts pointed out to the Minister that building up an agro-based economy is a timely requirement. The Committee was of the view that a National Policy on Agriculture should be formulated with an understanding of the chain from producer to consumer.
The Minister said here that a number of programs including the establishment of an Organic Fertilizer Authority, strengthening the country with seed production, making the country self-sufficient in 16 crops and enriching the farmers with agro-technology and establishment of agro-export villages are already in operation. The Minister stated before the Committee of Experts appointed to formulate a National Policy on Agriculture that his sole aim is to expedite the adoption of the National Agriculture Policy as a national interest for the common objective and that he is ready to provide the necessary government intervention and assistance. The Committee of Experts agreed to gather and discuss information covering all sectors and to formulate a successful National Agriculture Policy expeditiously which is productive to the country and suitable to tomorrow and said that it is prepared to finalize the said policy. Retired Major General Sumedha Perera, the Secretary to the Ministry of Agriculture was also present at this special discussion. The Committee of Experts consisting of 13-member has been appointed on the recommendation of the Agriculture Minister Mahindananda Aluthgamage by Retired Major General Mr. Sumedha Pereira, the Secretary to the Ministry of Agriculture.