State land to be leased to boost agri-exports

Saturday, 19 November 2022 00:16 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

  • 2023 Budget unveils proposals to boost sectors such as cinnamon, coconut and related products, dairy and establishment of 10 Agro-entrepreneurship villages

The Government this week  announced plans to ensure productive use of a vast extent of State-owned land especially to boost agri-exports.

In his 2023 Budget presentation, President and Finance Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe said vast amount of land belonging to Janatha Estate Development Board (JEDB), Sri Lanka State Plantation Corporation (SPC), and Land Reform Commission (LRC) remains without being cultivated or productively utilised for a long time. This he said was due to various reasons such as legal issues, institutional conflicts, lack of capital.

“There are possibilities of productively using such lands for the betterment of the economy. Accordingly, a program will be devised to allow investors to productively utilise the land in a manner to increase both the production and exports,” he said.

The Government proposes to lease out large parcels of unutilised/unproductively used lands on a long-term basis to grow exportable crops. Further, a new law to facilitate the proposed agricultural land lease program will also be presented to Parliament, the President said.

Plans with regard to disposal of Government lands were also mentioned in the 2023 Budget. The President said although preliminary activities related to the disposal of government lands are carried out by District Secretaries/Government Agents through Divisional Secretaries/Additional Government Agents, at a later stage such duties were also allocated to Sri Lanka Mahaweli Authority and the Land Reform Commission which were established for special requirements.

It is reported that there are occurrences of discrimination and malpractice as preliminary activities related to disposal of lands are done in various ways by the respective entities.

Therefore, as the special requirements have already been met, a program will be prepared during the next year to enable preliminary activities in relation to the disposal of all government lands including the disposal of lands under the above two institutions only by the Divisional Secretaries, the President said.

In the 2023 Budget several other measures were also announced to boost the agriculture sector. One was the proposal to establish a separate Department for the development of the cinnamon industry in the Karandeniya area where cinnamon cultivation is widespread. To enhance coconut and related products fragmentation of coconut lands will be restricted to those with less than one acre in extent as opposed to 4 hectares as at present. Other proposals include  establishment of 10 Agro-entrepreneurship villages; reducing post-harvest crop losses and improve storage; increasing liquid milk production; retaining the youth community in the agriculture industry district wise