Help farmers; don’t re-instate fertilizer subsidy
Opposition Leader Sajith Premadasa says he would re-instate the fertilizer subsidy suspended by the present government. The wasteful fertilizer subsidy has eventually benefitted the mass scale rice merchants like Araliya, Nipuna and New Ratna. Continuing the fertilizer subsidy would hinder the efforts of the farmers to utilize fertilizer thriftily.
Farmers must have the opportunity to purchase fertilizer from the market at a fair price that matches the import cost. The market prices of all the crops must be marked accordingly.
According to the statistics of the National Fertilizer Secretariat, over 1.3 million metric tons of fertilizer was imported to Sri Lanka before the present crisis. The country needed Rs. 60 billion worth of foreign currency for that. 400,000 tons of fertilizer was used for paddy cultivation whilst the rest was used by the other crops. These costs are needed to be borne by the farmer while the price of their production must adjust accordingly. The farmers who cannot afford the fertilizer price must have access to credit facilities.
The government must provide subsidies to the farmers. However, the aim of subsidies must be transforming subsistence farming into modern agriculture and the peasant to an agro entrepreneur. The government has the responsibility of facilitating farmers to obtain knowledge, training, information and technology. State investments are necessary for the fields such as agro insurance schemes, credit facilities, storage, post-harvest technology, market regulation, farmers’ pension schemes, irrigation development, wildlife management to minimize crop damage and promotion of agro exports.