Un­prece­dented crop fail­ures, ex­treme weather de­stroy rice har­vest

Sunday Times (Sri Lanka) - - NEWS -

In an un­prece­dented turn of events, the rice har­vest has failed for three con­sec­u­tive sea­sons, cre­at­ing a need for rice imports once more.

From the Yala sea­son of 2016 up to this year, the har­vest has failed and rice pro­duc­tion has hit a 10-year low.

The gov­ern­ment plans to im­port more than 500,000 met­ric tonnes of rice within the next few months. A met­ric tonne is 2,204.6 pounds.

Since May his year, pri­vate im­porters have brought in more than 400,000 MT of rice.

The crop fore­cast re­port of the De­part­ment of Agri­cul­ture, re­veals that the rice pro­duc­tion in Maha 2016/17 and Yala 2017 would be enough for just 7.72 months.

The cul­ti­va­tion of rice has also suf­fered from var­i­ous fac­tors in­clud­ing drought and floods.

Ac­cord­ing to the Agri­cul­ture and Agrar­ian In­sur­ance Board, 14% of the to­tal land area is cul­ti­vated with paddy, which is about 964,268 hectares.

Du­minda Priyadar­shana, head of mar­ket­ing, food pol­icy and the agri-busi­ness divi­sion of the Hec­tor Kobbekaduwa Agrar­ian Re­search and Train­ing In­sti­tute, said due to the mas­sive de­struc­tion caused by flood­ing dur­ing the 2016 Yala sea­son, and in 2016/ 2017 Maha sea­son, and by the drought dur­ing this year’s Yala sea­son, rice pro­duc­tion de­clined.

He said for the first time in his­tory, three con­sec­u­tive sea­sons, the 2016 Yala, 2016/2017 Maha and 2017 Yala have failed.

“Nearly 150,000 Hectares were dev­as­tated by floods and tor­ren­tial rains dur­ing the 2016 Yala sea­son, while dur­ing the 2016/ 2017 Maha only half of the paddy lands were cul­ti­vated be­cause the rain­fall was not suf­fi­cient,’’ he said.

Ac­cord­ing to data from the AAIB Agri­cul­ture and Agrar­ian In­sur­ance Board, in the last Maha sea­son, 137,950.42 hectares of paddy lands were not cul­ti­vated and the crop failed in an­other 179,796 hectares. Also, 35,157 hectares were cul­ti­vated with al­ter­na­tive crops due to the se­vere drought.

Al­though the tar­get was to cul­ti­vate 400,020 hectares of paddy land, in the last Yala sea­son only around 263,307 hectares were grown. How­ever, out of that, crop dam­age was re­ported in a sig­nif­i­cant land area.

Ac­cord­ing to the crop fore­cast re­port by the De­part­ment of Agri­cul­ture, there was to­tal dam­age in 4,473 hectares of cul­ti­vated paddy lands. In 373 hectares there was 75% dam­age. In 2,767 hectares, half of the crop was dam­aged. In 785 hectares, the crop dam­age was 25%, Mr Priyadar­shana said.

In the last Yala sea­son, there was rea­son­able cul­ti­va­tion in Polon­naruwa and Bat­ticaloa, while in Anur­d­ha­pura and Am­para, the two ma­jor paddy cul­ti­vat­ing districts, only 28% and 67% were cul­ti­vated re­spec­tively, due to the short­age of wa­ter.

Mr Priyadar­shana said the Yala har­vest will not be enough for the next few months and the har­vest from the next Maha will only come to the mar­ket in Fe­bru­ary next year.

“But the millers may be sell­ing their stocks at com­par­a­tively higher prices as they did not have enough stocks to sell for three sea­sons,” he said.

Mean­while, the AAIB chair­man, Syd­ney Ga­janayake, claimed the largest

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