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Nuwara Eliya Agricultural Cooperative Society Ltd. comprises of prominent potato and vegetable cultivators in upcountry. It is a statutory body registered before the Commissioner of the Cooperative Development under the Cooperative Societies Act No. 05 of 1972 of the parliament and consists of 55 founder members. There are about 20,000 members of Upcountry Independent Farmers Association who obtain various services of this voluntary organization.

The Society is administered by a Board of Directors who was selected at the general body.

Background

Being an agricultural country, Sri Lanka the farmers grew three major crops: chili, big-onion and potato, in addition to other cultivations and treated them as bonus crops since they provided an opportunity to overcome the losses when incurred in their other cultivations. However with the political changes taking place in the country the government started to import these commodities since 1994.

Unfortunately in 1996 the economic situation of the farmers totally collapsed due to heavy importation of chili, big-onion and potato, at a time which yielded the highest cultivation and harvest of these crops which would have otherwise enabled self sufficiency in the country with respect to these three commodities. At this time farmers of the whole country gave up cultivating these crops and started to grow vegetables which were prominently grown in Nuwara Eliya previously. This caused vegetable over production in the country. The overproduction paved the way to price collapse. Thus, the farmers were again destroyed during this second attempt that they made to revive. All these factors contribute to the desperation of the farmers.

The devastated cultivators encountered unbearable difficulties and their actions were merely limited to holding protests against the government and the decision makers. Meanwhile they realized the danger in protesting against the government in rebellious manner. Therefore, the farmers understood the importance and the necessity of having a legal and organized body to forward farmers’ grievances to the government. The Nuwara Eliya Agricultural Cooperative Society bloomed as a result of this.

The Society originated in 1994 with a view of facilitating the farmers who are left out all thorough out and are not properly supported by the government programs.

Problem

All the time, these vegetable farmers are compelled to sell their produce at whatever price that is being asked for. Increase in the production volume results in further price reduction, sometimes far below which makes them unable to cover even the initial cost of production. There is no body to guide these farmers toward organized farming.

Our experience

  1. There is no mechanism in the country to convey the data and information to farmers as to how much to produce, the demand and supply trends and the price behavior, in order to have a guidance for their agribusiness.
  2. Available information related to agriculture does not match with each other in different departments. For example, Food Department does not know the prospective yield before importation, as there is no mutual exchange of accurate information with the Department of Agriculture. The Food department considers only the benefit of the consumers and imports goods in arbitrary manner.
  3. The absence of a government assisted market for their products places the farmers at the mercy of buyers as their products are perishable and cannot be kept any further after harvesting to obtain a better selling price.

For example, at times Sri Lanka experiences over production of tomatoes (selling price becomes about Rs. 5 – 10 per 1 kg)

The government’s aim is to provide commodities at a low price to the consumers. Yet the decision makers do not seem to have realized that the low imports cannot be carried out all the time due to factors like global economic recession and that the local production should be safeguarded to satisfy the local demand without destroying it with cheap imports. As a result vegetable and potato cultivators have become perpetual loss makers which makes them poorer and poorer. The prevailing situation has compelled most farmers to abandon their livelihoods as there is no alternative.

The younger generation has totally given up farming as a profession. This tragedy affects not only the farmers or their families, but also the country’s development as a whole. The farmers’ plight is unseen by the authorities and unheard by the governments.

Solution

  1. We believe introducing a mechanism is necessary and there is an urgent need to create farmer aware on the amount of land cultivated in the country related to respective crops and their periods of harvesting, their price behavior etc.
  2. It is necessary to introducing a method to convey the information to farmers on time and it may be much better if it is done daily.
  3. In order to do it there should be a body which should be capable of making the directives.
  4. To make such effort such body must have the ability and also accurate information.
  5. The ultimate solution to overcome the difficulties of the farmer (the entire country farmers) is to organize them to a zonal system.
Last Updated on Wednesday, 09 September 2009 17:54
 

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