Northern farming booms

Central Bank loan scheme pays rich dividends


By Ravi Ladduwahetty

The Northern Province and especially in the Jaffna peninsula, is a hive now of farming activity, with almost all varieties of vegetables being cultivated round the year and transported to the South. Between 15 and 20 lorries arrive in the south daily loaded with northern produce as a result..

According to Central Bank's Team Leader of the Poverty Alleviation Micro Finance Project- Sri Pathmanathan, red onions, cabbage, green chillies, brinjals, carrot and beetroot cultivations are flourishing there where the produce was arriving in the South from February, helping to stabilize the high vegetable prices arising from floods which ravaged the North Central and Eastern Provinces a month prior to that.

It was in June 2009 soon after the cessation of hostilities a month before that the Central Bank decided to explore the possibilities of reviving agriculture in the north, especially in the Jaffna peninsula. Up to now, loans have been disbursed to 14,100 farmer families worth Rs. 1.7 billion.

He said that the farmers engage in round the year crop cultivation with manioc which has a six month harvesting period carrot in eighty days and keera which is fifteen days. The output comes from Jaffna, Mullaitivu, Mannar, Vavuniya and Kilinochchi.

Farmer families numbering 30,000 in the four liberated Northern districts of Mannar, Mullaitivu, Kilinochchi and Vavuniya will also go in for paddy and other crop cultivation for the first time in Maha Season of 2011/ 2012, courtesy a Central Bank sponsorship.

This will also mean that a total extent of 80,000 to 100,000 acres of fresh land will be cultivated for the first time since the cessation of hostilities with the resettlement of the Internally Displaced Persons, barring only a few in the Pudukudirippu area.

The loans, which have been facilitated by the Central Bank will be disbursed through a private- public sector partnership and the disbursing banks will be the Bank of Ceylon, Peoples Bank, the SANASA Bank, the Hatton National Bank and the Union Bank,

This will be the first time that the farmers of these liberated areas will be going in for paddy and crop cultivation commencing in September and we have identified 30,000 farmer families for the cultivation loan scheme with the 2010 season being marred with floods, a senior Central Bank official told The Island. .

This process will soon see the revival of the agriculture sector in the North with the farmers not only going in for paddy cultivation but also subsidiary crops such as capsicum, beetroot, knol khol along with green gram, black gram and maize which will be grown in the districts of Mullativu, Vavuniya, Mannar and Vavuniya.

There will also be a special emphasis for the cultivation of groundnut in the Mullaitivu District while there will be emphasis on paddy cultivation in Mannar's famed rice bowl, he said.

The farmer families numbering 30,000, have been identified by the Central Bank officials in terms of groups in accordance with the geographical areas and they will be initially given Rs. 40,000 each worth Rs. 1.2 billion for the cultivation at 8% per annum payable over nine months. There will be also a 8% interest subsidiary which will be provided to the lending banks which will be initiated through the Treasury through the Central Bank, which will effectively make the loans at 14%, he said.

He said that there will be a total revival of not only the agricultural sector in the areas of farming, but also dairy development, animal husbandry and livestock development, fisheries and the small and medium scale enterprises as well.

There will also be the emergence of a whole host of development activities in the SME sector such as the extraction of oil from ginger and ground nut, palmyrah based industries and construction based industries such as bricks and cement based blocks which will be needed in the reconstruction of the areas after 30 years of war, along with other sectors such as vehicle repairs, welding and carpentry. He also said that this was the first time that the Central Bank officials had gone to the periphery to identify these farmer groups but also the groups which are engaged in fisheries, livestock and the SME sector which will proceed parallel. It will also ensure the food security while also proceeding to contribute towards the targeted tripling of the Gross Domestic Product of the North within the next two years. Farmer families are already being identified to group together to form societies

The SME sector will also hinge on areas bordering on the agri-based industries such as vegetable oil.

"What ever the output of the areas will go into the feeding of those areas and the surplus will be fed into the Dambulla and Colombo Economic Centres," he said.

Meetings which had begun this year between the Central Bank officials and the heads of Departments of the line state agencies such as the Departments of Agriculture, Fisheries, the National Livestock Development Board and others and later meetings with the resource personnel associated with those areas which contributed to the logistics of identifying the farmer families.

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