Food Security is the recurring theme for all countries post pandemic, now suddenly discovering that the old world order no longer holds and unlikely to return, with a new normal taking over.
Nothing is more important for a nation – to make sure its residents can obtain their dietary requirements at a reasonable price. If Governments prioritize this, other sustainable industries will automatically grow around this. We must be focused in this direction. Vietnam is a prime example of growing on the backs of this.
In Sri Lanka’s context the lip service paid to those in this industry has not changed at all even post pandemic recession we are in the middle of.
It is left to the Private Sector to fend for themselves. They prefer to do it under the radar, when they reach economies of scale, rather than rely on the State, as the latter interferes with the independence to operate, with the normal supply and demand rules. In some cases political interference restricts organic growth instead of assisting it.
Price controls time and again have proved counter-productive as they have either been short term and unsustainable as the recent experience of the Presidential dictats that barely could be sustained for a month before they were conveniently dropped without shame!
The example in the link below is a success story in the poultry industry which has been able to supply local demand, and have been able to take advantage of the void created by supply chain dislocations to export to Middle East Markets of Halal Certified Products.
If one looks at the history of Crysbro they started small and are now one of the most efficient producers of poultry products. This is due to the entrepreneurial skill of its founders.
The State duty is to assist the small scale farmer (not all people farming are farmers, many are forced to farm because the state has enslaved them by giving lands instead of maximizing their skills) with potential and desire with technical knowledge and inputs appropriate to his or her vision. Training is an integral part of this, in judging those with potential. There are educated graduates in Agriculture, without the tools to engage in this field, while 90% of the class are in that stream because they have just got the needed z score to enter that faculty.
We have got all our priorities wrong and we have leaders going to agricultural area exhorting farmers to export, without selecting those with the most potential (10% of farmers who have to be identified and selected) and assist them with improving their skills, productivity, providing quality inputs and assisting in value addition will provide the needed dividends. One has only to use the examples of success stories to ask them how they were able to achieve success to know how to replicate this for so many farmers in SL who have the potential, desire, and vision, but lack the inputs needed.
We must identify this pool of people from the community at large. They are also the people most suited to run the country as opposed to the present mob vying to enter parliament. They will turn around this Industry that has been suppressed with inconsistent policies for so long.
As the link shows, 2,000 farmers of maize have a direct market for their produce to Crysbro so the latter can manufacture their own chicken feed. However the answer is not banning the import of maize. Banning only increases the price of inputs making the cost of production of poultry higher, as we have recently seen. If we were able to increase supply of maize that is fine, but it is not as simple as that, as the demand has always been there, but farmers need to be assisted in increasing their output, not due to lower market price, but other factors, such as poor seeds, lack of fertilizer, and schizophrenic policies that have increased HEC (Human Elephant Conflict) in growing area, by further restricting Elephant Habitats.
The biggest myth is the lack of land to grow. We have at least 2 million hectares of land that is unproductive due to parceling out land to landless, the most enslaving policy that SL has performed since independence for political purposes. If we put back a million hectares back to forest, we can then utilize the other million hectares into productive agriculture.
Only a farmer can see this need of balancing productivity with the needs of the environment and not destroying forests that this Government is bent on doing.
In conclusion the key is to identify the potential and develop that. Remember NOT everyone who is classified as a farmer is a farmer. Please identify the 100,000 people in the country who could be classified as farmers from the 1,000,000 who are engaged as such.
It is the 100,000 true farmers who appreciate sustainability not the 900,000 who just want a free ride by cutting more trees and forests to further devastate the land, and the livelihood of a whole nation. It the politician who is pandering to these bogus farmers for their survival that is killing Sri Lanka and worsening the crisis.
There is another matter that needs consideration. With the Government banning the import of maize, a key ingredient in the chicken feed for the Poultry Industry, the local price of maize goes up, however the supply does not increase to match the demand. Then the poultry producers increase the price of chicken as we have seen already, as the feed cost has risen. So if local demand from the consumer falls, as the consumer has less money to buy chicken or eggs, then an efficient producer with contacts in the Middle East has no option but to export if he has a market, where he is able to make a higher profit margin than selling locally. As long as there is an opening here that is fine, if you don’t have the export leads, then you have to face the local market realities, of being squeezed, profit wise!