Traditional varieties of rice to be exported from next April

By Maheesha Mudugamuwa

Sri Lanka would commence exporting organic traditional rice to Europe and Australia by next April, Agriculture Ministry Secretary W. A. Sakalasuriya said yesterday.

He told The Island that the Ministry had taken steps to cultivate 25,000 hectares of traditional rice varieties this Maha season in the Hambantota, Polonnaruwa, Ampara and Mannar districts, for export. 

"We have already received several orders/inquiries from Europe, Australia, West Asia and some Asian countries and definitely we will export rice next April", the Ministry Secretary said.

Sakalasuriya said, "The main problem is to find the traditional varieties of seed paddy for cultivation as the country had forgotten the traditional rice varieties for decades. It’s very difficult to find 50,000 MT of seed paddy as we have planned to cultivate 25,000 hectares." 

More than 400 varieties had been cultivated in Sri Lanka before the advent of agrochemicals he said, adding that the farmers used to cultivate those varieties taking into consideration the nutritional and medicinal requirements of their families.

"As most of the emerging economies such as China, India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Vietnam and Korea are rice consuming countries, we can continuously expect increasing demand for our traditional rice varieties like Suwandel, Rathdel, Kalu Heenati, Madathavulu etc. from those countries."

Sakalasuriya explained that unlike the hybrid varieties, there was no competitors for traditional varieties in the world market as most of those were endemic to Sri Lanka.  

Meanwhile, the government has earned Rs. 780 million by exporting 30,000 MT of rice to the United Arab Emirates (UAE).

According to the Paddy Marketing Board, it maintained a buffer stock of 180,000 MT of paddy to the value of Rs. 5,940 million in its granaries across the country.  

Sri Lanka consumes approximately 200,000 MT of rice a month.

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