Mannar farmers said facing ruin
[TamilNet, Saturday, 03 May 2003, 00:10 GMT]
“Mannar rice farmers are facing ruin for they cannot market their produce. Each farmer will have to lose more than 9000 rupees per acre (92 USD) of paddy if they do not find means to market their rice at reasonable prices”, Mr. Seemanpillai Soundiranayagam, President of the Federation of Farmers’ Associations of Mannar told Tamilnet Friday. The district saw its first good harvest in 13 years this season following the lifting of draconian Sri Lanka army restrictions on fuel, fertilisers, irrigation and transport of rice last year.
Mannar farmers staged protests since late last year to draw attention to their predicament. The government agent promised to purchase rice from the farmers at reasonable prices for the state owned Co-operative Wholesale Establishment (CWE) following a well attended demonstration in Mannar town last month.
“More than 80 percent rice produced by Mannar farmers this season has not been marketed because unscrupulous traders are depressing whole sale prices. If farmers sell at prices stipulated by them, they would face dire ruin”, Mr. Seemanpullai said.
He said that rice traders are trying to swindle farmers desperate to sell their produce by offering to buy on credit at cut throat prices. “The Government Agent buys only a small quantity of rice at the guarantee price for distribution of dry rations through Multi-Purpose Co-operative Societies”, he added.
Farmers say that corrupt Sri Lankan government ministers are behind rice import rackets which artificially depress prices in the local market during harvest season.
The Federation met the Mannar Government Agent over the crisis this week. Mr. Seemanpillai said the Federation is planning to stage a big demonstration if there is no solution the problem soon.