Shortage of maize may lead to shortage of chicken and eggs

Tuesday, 15 March 2011 00:04 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

By Shezna Shums

The All Island Poultry Association urges the government to mediate a speedy formula where the much needed maize can be imported to the country.

President, All Island Poultry Association, Dr. D. D. Wanasinghe said that maize was needed within the next one or two days to make a positive contribution.

“If the maize imports are delayed local poultry and egg farmers may curtail their production and cause problems in the future,” he said.

The Association also wants to see a streamlined process and a firm decision as to who will be allowed to import maize and how it should be distributed.  This, the association said was necessary if a monopoly on the import and distribution of maize was to be avoided and added that the President of the Association had already made some proposals to the government on the matter.

Dr. Wanasinghe noted that it is the Department of Agriculture which oversees maize cultivation in the country; but it is the Ministry of Livestock and Rural Development under whose purview come the poultry and egg farms. “There should not be a situation where import permits are delayed because the Department of Agriculture wants to cultivate maize locally. There should not be red tape when it comes to importing maize now,” said Dr. Wanasinghe.

Dr. Wanasinghe cited a previous occasion when the government took over one and a half months to import the much needed maize into the country.  According to a survey carried out by the All Island Poultry Association, Sri Lanka requires 125,000 metric tonnes of maize till August.

The recent rains and floods had destroyed most of the maize cultivation leading to only about five percent of poor quality maize being available in the Island. Local poultry and egg farms did not use this poor quality maize to feed the chicks, as it was not suitable for obtaining the best yields.

It was also pointed out that middlemen had asked that permits to import maize be issued to them so that they could import maize and also distribute same. The Association said that such a situation could create a cartel in the maize industry. “The Department of Agriculture should also show the importance of solving the maize shortage in the country and get down an immediate supply of maize to the country,” continued Dr. Wanasinghe.

Given that there is also a global shortage on grains; the problem of the shortage of maize should be dealt with immediately if the chickens and eggs are to be sold at today’s prices.

Poultry consists of mainly maize said Dr. Wanasinghe and recalled how previously when the government imported chickens and eggs this was done without any hindrance.  Similar action should be taken regarding maize imports now he stressed. “Taxes affecting maize should be temporarily removed to avoid a spiral increase in the cost of chicken and eggs in the local market,” explained Dr. Wanasinghe.

According to the Ministry of Livestock and Rural Development there were approximately 85,000 families involved in the poultry sector in Sri Lanka in 2008.

Speaking on the upcoming Sinhala New Year’s demand for more chicken and eggs, Dr. Wanasinghe pointed out that at the present time there is a marginal surplus of chicken in the local market and that this will be sufficient for the upcoming festive season; however it is crucial that the government immediately imports maize to avoid future problems. Local maize can only be harvested again in August and until then measures have to be taken to import the required amount of maize.