Harvests slip in Batticaloa
[TamilNet, Wednesday, 09 September 1998, 06:40 GMT]
Paddy-harvest in Batticaloa has been sharply lower than expected, sources there said. It was believed that during the year, "small-scale" cultivation would be carried out in 15. 600 hectares, but this was done only in 9.334 hectares. "Large-scale" cultivation was planned for 12.325 hectares but only 6.792 hectares were used.
A similar reduction was observed during 1997, when, in large-scale activity, 11.431 hectares were cultivated, though the expectation was around 17.57 hectares.
Sources attribute the falling production to several factors including the Sri Lankan government's restriction on chemical fertilisers and fuel for tractors used in farming; into the area.
Destruction to crop fields by intermittent shelling from nearby Sri Lankan Army camps is also blamed. Unexploded ordnance deters farmers from cultivating some farmland that have been heavily affected by the shelling.
Furthermore, farmers have also encountered difficulties acquiring more productive and disease-resistant seedlings, and in transporting their produce from the fields to the markets. The markets themselves are very basic and inadequate for their needs, say farmers.
As a result of the island's war, people in rural areas have felt it would be safer to move into and live in urban areas, this migration has also ontributed to the lower production, say farmers.
It is norm rather than exception, that in these areas, high-ranking security forces personal fail to attend much publicised meetings held ostensibly to address the problems faced by the farmers, who feel they have few ways of making their grievances heard.
Strict security measures implemented by the Sri Lankan forces hamper the farmers ability to meet their planned outputs, they say.
They point out that, for example, highly productive fields owned by Moslems residents of Karadianaru, Aaythiyamalai, Mandapathadi and Valachenai, are rarely cultivated, due to security concerns.
The continuing decline in agricultural output in the eastern areas is raising concern that the region may lose its ability to sustain itself in the years to come, say some farmers.