MahindanandaAluthgamage, Minister of Agriculture.
A special discussion on streamlining activities of Dedicated Economic Centres for providing opportunity for farmers to sell their harvest and for consumers to buy vegetables at reasonable prices was held at the Ministry of Agriculture on 11.02.2021 chaired by the Minister of Agriculture MahindanandaAluthgamage.
Speaking further the Minister said that in the Government are responsible for providing good to consumers at reasonable prices. If prices of those commodities are on the rice even for a day, people point their accusing finger at the Government. Therefore, we being policy makers of the Government are duty bound ensure distribution of essential goods at reasonable price. We in the Ministry of Agriculture are ready to cultivate food crops while imposing restrictions on importation wherever necessary in order to protect the consumer. As prices of goods are on the increase, the government has taken a decision to the retail price. Acccordingly, 27 essential commodities including potato, onion and dhal will be sold to people under controlled price continuously for a period of 03 months which being a joint undertaking by the Ministry of Trade, C.W.E. and co-operative net-work all being state or semi state institutions. Economic Centres, objective of which being supporting economic development. They have not been constructed merely to be rented out and collecting monthly rental. At present they are not serving the very purpose for which they have been established. The President instructed us to introduce a mechanism to supply vegetable to consumers reasonable price. If Economic Centres are given to farmers they would be in a Position to sell vegetable at a reasonable price. At present Economic Centres are controlled by few entrepreneurs by providing opportunity for middlemen to earn profit. The problem is that the mechanism has not been established properly.
The managers responsibility is not limited only to collecting rental. Our aim is to build an establishment as C.W.E. by bringing all Economic Centres in the island under one Trust in order to meet out justice to both the farmer and the consumer without middlemen’s interference. Farmers are repenting unable to sell their productions while the consumers are grumbling over the soring prices of commodities. All these are due the middlemen earning profit. Under new mechanism to be established, spaces of the Economic Centreswill be made available to Farmers Organizations making it imposible to buy vegetables from Manin Market. Lorries transporting vegetables will be subjected to checking by officers of the Civil Security Department. If vegetables are brought from outside this methodology couldn’t be implemented. If vegetables are brought from outside this methodology they will bring commodities to Economic Centres. The Manager is responsible for making payments and selling. An officer of the Civil Security Department will be appointed to a post in the Management. When collecting centres are established under Farmer organizations farmers are able to sell their output easily under new mechanism put in place within next 03 months.
Hon. ShashindraRajapaksa who joined the discussion pointed out that Economic Centres were established for bulk traders to work closely with consumers to whom goods are to be sold at reasonable prices under competitive marketing. Market Spaces in Narahenpita, Piliyandala, Rathmalana and Welisara Economic Centres were made available to farmers on the belief that they sell their produce at reasonable prices to urban consumers who are unable to cultivate. The Minister is of the view that this new mechanism would be a success if the same bilief is hanoured by both parties. Managers of the DECs, Agents of Trade Associations and Ministry Officials also attended this discussion.