An independent think tank highlighted that the Government had thus far provided only limited financial assistance to farmers and raised doubts as to whether the Government had long-term plans with regard to debt redemption schemes and rural credit schemes.
President Maithripala Sirisena in the run-up to his election in 2015 announced a pledge to introduce a debt-redemption scheme which would allow for women who are suffering from indebtedness due to the hardships in providing for themselves and their families under the destructive economic policies of the Government to no longer be vulnerable. He had stated that he would cancel 50% of the debts of women in agriculture who have faced exceptional hardships in recent years.

Support for farmers through budgetary allocations is evident in Government publications (in the 2015 revised national budget Rs 399 million was allocated for a Rural Credit Scheme for farmers and Rs 1.5 billion was allocated for the relief of farmers’ loans), but not adequate in its scope, Verite Research (VR) noted, adding that neither the publications of the Department of National Budget nor the budget estimates released by the Department of Development Finance contained a 2016 estimate, or any projection for allocations in 2017 or 2018.

According to VR’s analysis, workers in the industrial and service sectors are up to 3.6 times more productive than those in the agriculture sector. The analysis further revealed that this relative lack of productivity in the agricultural sector has a huge impact on Sri Lanka’s food security and the Gross Domestic Product (agricultural production accounts for 8%), as well as the futures of many farmers.
(RL J)