Since the time of the late Prime Minister D.S.Senanayake, all governments made efforts to upgrade the status of the farmers, but it is only during the Mahinda Rajapaksa era that the crowning of the farmers has been made a reality for the first time in 65 years of post-independence history of this country.
This was stated by the Minister of Mass Media and Information Keheliya Rambukwella at the media conference announcing Cabinet decisions held at the Ministry of Mass Media and Information yesterday.
The Government not only provided the fertiliser subsidy and other agricultural equipment at concessionary rates to the farmers, it revived the Paddy Marketing Board and allocated Rs. 5 Billion to the Ministry of Cooperatives and Internal Trade to purchase paddy produced in the country and this purchasing was carried out by going up to the fields of the farmers as it was not done hitherto.
With regard to the drought situation that has affected the farmers in the North Central Province, the first official matter attended by the President upon his return from the successful visits to Cuba and Brazil was to convene a meeting to discuss about the drought situation and take measures to provide relief to the affected farmers. The Minister said that a special committee has been appointed representing five Ministries to take measures to provide relief facilities to the affected farmers.
The Minister said that agriculture is the backbone and lifeline of this country and it was due to the encouragement and inducements given by the Government to the farmers that it has achieved self sufficiency in rice and the farmers have been encouraged to attend to cultivation activities since it has become a profitable venture.
He said that farmers consider agriculture as a transaction with the God and it totally depends on the forces of the nature. The Minister reminded that when natural disasters affected the cultivation during the recent period some people even speculated that the price of a kilo of rice would increase up to Rs. 150 and due the prudent measures taken by the Government it has been possible to make the farmers richer and bring down the price of rice to the minimum possible level.
The Minister reminded that due to the recent natural disasters, countries like New Zealand faced various difficulties and their crops and animal husbandry were completely destroyed.