The air force led community service project will undertake paddy harvesting of low income paddy farmers to help them save on labour costs they would have incurred for harvesting their crop.
The Sri Lanka Air Force (SLAF) has undertaken paddy harvesting to support small-land holding farmers in the Morawewa division of Trincomalee.
Air Force spokesperson Dushantha Wijesinghe told mediapersons that air force personnel began a paddy harvesting project using newly acquired combine harvester machines on Saturday 12 February.
The air force announcement came a day after the chief of staff Gen Shaendra Silva had said that the army will deploy a solider to each paddy and vegetable farm throughout the country in the coming Yala cultivation season.
The beneficiary farmers include 31 paddy farming families who were recommended by the Morawewa divisional secretariat and the area’s paddy farming association.
“It is intended to harvest 93 acres where three acres of each family will be harvested free of charge during this initial phase,” he said.
The second and third phases will be conducted at the Knaugahawewa and Ampara areas respectively.
“The objective of this community service responsibility project is to undertake paddy harvesting of low income paddy farmers to provide incentives to increase their earnings by cutting down harvesting cost.” Wijesinghe said.
As has been reported, the Sri Lanka military had earlier helped farmers gather their harvest in the early days of the pandemic and also helped farmers dispose their crop.
Sri Lanka’s agriculture sector hit a crisis in the last cropping season due to a fertiliser and agri-chemical ban announced by the government on the advice of a legislator-monk, Athureliya Rathana.
The government is aware that farmers are worried about the low harvest due to the shortage of fertilisers that arose due to the ban. It is estimated that the crop losses will be anywhere between a third and a fourth for most farming families.
Besides getting defence personnel to harvest the crop, the government has also announced a 50 per cent hike in the procurement price for the paddy.
Overall, the state-run paddy marketing board said yesterday that the harvest for the season has dropped by 30 percent to around 2.3 million metric tons from 3.2 million metric tons.
The idea behind involving army men and air force men in the harvest is to reduce the labour costs that the farmers would have to pay for otherwise. However, this has also thrown up the issue of support for the landless labourers who would not only earn a living by getting engaged during the harvest, but also obtain a small part of the harvested paddy for their own consumption. This is an age-old custom in rural parts of the country.
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