USAID-funded project renders exploitation of Tamil farmers by export conglomerate

[TamilNet, Monday, 24 September 2018, 20:03 GMT]
Poverty-stricken Eezham Tamil household farmers from Koa'ra'laip-pattu North (Vaakarai) division of Batticaloa, complain that they are systematically exploited by the SL State-owned Bank of Ceylon (BOC), which has threatened to seize their lands if they complained about exploitation by Hayleys Agriculture, the largest exporter of fruits in the island. The farmers were given technical assistance to commence Gherkin Cucumber farming with USAID assistance. The BOC maintains that the farmers have to pay back the initial funding by binding their sales to Hayleys. The produce is purchased at a low price, and if they complained about the exploitation, they would risk losing their lands, the BOC officials have threatened they said.

The USAID was funding the project claiming it was promoting ‘grower-buyer agreement model’ and was claiming that it was providing initial capital and technical assistance to farmers.

The SL State-owned Bank of Ceylon workers were acting as extension agents of Hayleys.

However, the farmers say they only received around 90,000 rupees per family and that too for the purchase of fertiliser and the preparation of the grounds for farming. The BOC was providing technical tools such as pumps. They are bound to sell the produce at a low price to Hayleys, and the BOC is acting as the agent controlling the exploitation, Uthayakumar, a household farmer in Vaakarai said.

The Gherkin Cucumber farming is a profitable household farming. However, the attached conditions keep them bound to poverty forever.

In the meantime, Mahinda Amaraweera, the SL Minister of Agriculture was claiming that his ministry has signed a Memorandum of Understanding with Hayley's subsidiary HJS Condiments Limited on 23 May 2018 to promote the ability of 500 farmers in Batticaloa to cultivate green Cucumber.

Whether it is Sea Cucumber poaching in the seas along the eastern coast targeting Chinese market or green Cucumber production in the household farming targeting export to US-oriented markets, it is the war-affected nation of Eezham Tamils, who are targeted by the agent State in Colombo and the corporate outfits in South, grassroots activists in Batticaloa commented.

Vaakarai was a stronghold of the LTTE before 2007 in Batticaloa region. However, after 2009, the area has been facing Sinhala colonisation and structural genocide through various SL departments as well as the Colombo-centric private sector.


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