BATTICALOA is slowly getting itself afloat after floods but the damage is still extensive. The next step for most of these resilient people is to get their Yala harvest on target and for that there is still a grave need for assistance. Many opine that the loans taken need to have their repayment rescheduled as many are not financially stable enough to pay them according to the originally agreed dates and give special loans for the Yala seasons.
The Socio Economic and Planning Centre, Department of Agriculture in its recent crop forecast released in February stated that the cultivation progress of paddy up to end January of this year is 777,260 hectares, which is 95 per cent achievement of target. They noted that 205,000 hectares, which is approximately 26 per cent of the cultivated paddy land, had been damaged due to the floods. Batticaloa before floods produced 6% of the total paddy requirement of the country.
The department also noted that the expected production loss due to flood damage is about 0.75 million metric tonnes, which is about 24.5 per cent and the revised production forecast for the season is 2.3 million metric tonnes. Agriculture authorities also point out that due to the floods 70, 000 acres in Batticaloa have been filled with sand and have to be scrapped off permanently.
The Department stated that the Maha Season production would be sufficient up to mid October this year. However the results of the Yala season will have a direct impact on how commodity prices will behave in the middle of the year.
The paddy lands affected by the floods were mainly reported from the major commercial paddy producing districts of the Eastern, North Central and Northern Provinces. The highest crop damage was reported from Batticaloa, which recorded 58,100 hectares or 97% from the sown extent of paddy.
The other major flood affected Districts include Trincomalee, Kilinochchi, Ampara, Vavuniya, Anuradhapura and Mahaweli system B. However, the targets with regard to paddy have exceeded in the Districts of Galle, Kurunegala, Anuradhapura and other Mahaweli systems. This means that the government is hoping this will counterbalance any adverse effects by floods.
The Central Bank agrees that inflation has been caused by supply shocks that they did not predict. Nonetheless they are confident that the rate will remain in single digit. Yet several micro loan schemes have been initiated with the blessings of the Central Bank and implemented through the People’s Bank and Bank of Ceylon to alleviate poverty in those areas. Therefore it stands to reason that one of the most effective ways to prevent thousands of farmers being trapped in debt would be to assist them by rescheduling their loan payment agreements.
Agriculture authorities in those areas also insist that help for the Yala season would increase productivity and reverse at least to a certain extent the existing inflation within the country. This would not only ease their mind but it would also be a fitting tribute to a community that has worked extremely hard to supply the rest of the country with their staple food.