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The government last week said that lower production levels of key crops including big onion, potato and chilies continued to fall short of national demand and had therefore called for fresh projects to be initiated to expand their production.

The Agriculture Minister Duminda Dissanayake, who attended the 39th conference of the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) in Rome, stated that Sri Lanka’s production levels of several crops such as green gram, soybean, black gram, and cereal ‐ finger millet continued to be below requirement, despite the country achieving self‐sufficiency in rice and maize.

“Hence, the Government is in the process of launching special projects aimed at increasing the production of these crops. In addition, we are now focusing our attention on improving the sub-sectors of mechanization of the agriculture sector, empowering women, e-agriculture and agri-market development,” the Minister said.

The Minister in his speech, however, stated that the Government had introduced several policy measures such as the expansion of paddy purchasing program, raising the floor price of paddy and imposing a ceiling price for rice; continuation with the fertilizer subsidy scheme with further expansion to other crops; relaxing seed import policy allowing the importation of hybrid seeds; make provisions to introduce import duty concessions for agricultural machinery; and timely adjustment of import tariffs to cater to the needs of producers and consumers.

Dissanayake further pointed out the Government was also promoting the mechanization of the agriculture sector as a safe and environmentally friendly cultivation system. “The excessive use of agro-chemicals and its mixture with brackish waters have been attributed as a cause to a chronic kidney disease that is widespread in Sri Lanka’s agricultural zones. The government has therefore arrived at a policy decision to promote mechanization in the agriculture sector as a solution to the kidney disease,” he added.