- Calls for compensation for farmers, debt write-offs
- Says response has been inadequate
- Believes support for agri research has reduced making situation worse
- Salutes farmers seeking homegrown solution
The “Sena” caterpillar devastation cropped up in Parliament yesterday, with Opposition Leader Mahinda Rajapaksa criticising the Government for failing to find a solution to prevent its spread, and provide compensation for the affected farmers. Raising a series of Questions of Public Importance under Section 27 (2) of the Standing Orders, MP Rajapaksa proposed that the Government compensate farmers for the destroyed crops and the loss of income.
“Government should take action to eradicate this menace while compensating for the damages, and also write-off the bad debt created by agricultural loans. And is it important that the Government provides financial assistance till the farmers are able to cultivate some other product, which will bear fruit and make money. Now that the cultivations are destroyed by the Sena caterpillar, the farmers are unable to settle the cultivation loans obtained for the Maha season,” he said.
The Sena caterpillar is also known as the Fall Armyworm (Spodoptera frugiperda), which has spread rapidly in several regions. According to experts, the Fall Armyworm can be one of the more difficult pests to control in field corn.
Highlighting the districts that have come under the Fall Armyworm attack, the Opposition Leader slammed the Government for what he termed as inadequate efforts to eradicate the pest.
“Sena caterpillar attack is reported from different parts of the country. Ampara, Monaragala, Anuradhapura, Polonnaruwa, Vavuniya, Kurunegala, Jaffna, Puttalam, Kegalle, and Ratnapura districts are mostly affected. The Sena caterpillar has started to spread in other parts of the country as well. Sena caterpillar harms corn, sugarcane, and finger millet cultivations. Vegetables and other crops including the grass for cattle feed are also vulnerable,” he said.
“The Government is failing to provide necessary support. The development of agriculture related research during the last few years has led to this devastation. This is the opinion of the agriculture experts,” added MP Rajapaksa.
According to Rajapaksa, the Sena caterpillar attack is a national crisis, and he saluted farmers engaged in finding a homegrown solution. Meanwhile, UPFA lawmaker Mahinda Amaraweera proposed the Government extend the agriculture insurance coverage to include the Fall Armyworm.
Government is to provide a response on Wednesday after discussing matters with the President and industry experts. The Opposition is allowed to have a full-day’s debate over Fall Armyworm.(AH)
War against Fall Armyworm