With an emphasis on the greater pursuit in making smallholder farmers commercially viable, Hatton National Bank (HNB) organised two farmer forums for Nilaveli and Thampalagama farmer community in the Eastern province on 19 and 20 of September.
A man with a vision and a passion for the farmer community of the country attended the forum as the Chief Guest and he delivered the keynote speech, which was commended, appreciated and well received by the small holder farmers.
HNB Deputy General Manager – Marketing and Retail Banking Chandula Abeywickrema made a notable impact with the farmers with his key note. He is also the overall Head of Development Banking covering Agriculture lending and Microfinance.
Abeywickrema in his address at the forum enlightened the farmers on the importance of understanding the commercialising of the agriculture industry in Sri Lanka.
Hence the need to move away from the traditional agriculture practices to more scientific, commercially oriented productivity and programmes, with product diversification to suit the market requirements.
Further, he highlighted the importance of creating farmer associations either by regional basis or product category basis in order to empower the farmer community to a more sustainable and relevant agriculture industry status.
He also emphasised that it is through strong farmer associations that they would be able to lobby to obtain information and knowledge, technical know-how, state of the art best agriculture practices in the world to increase productivity and reduce the cost of the product.
In addition, he stated that stronger farmer associations play a crucial role in creation of significant market linkages and partnerships with both the public and private sectors. This would aid in resolving perpetual issues such as land ownership, storage facilities and most importantly finding markets for the harvest at the right price and commanding a premium price for the produce.
Abeywickrema noted that the food industry is one of the most lucrative industries in the world. Yet, the farmer, who is the main and the most important link of the supply chain remain poor and vulnerable in Asian countries, particularly in Sri Lanka.
Due to this unfortunate fact farmers not only are poor, they continue to revolve around the vicious cycle of indebtedness.
As a result, farmers and children of the farmers do not see a future for themselves in the industry that has been passed on to by their parents. However, if this continues to the future, we are certain to witness a depletion of the farmer force in Sri Lanka.
The gravity of the situation should be recognised and all efforts must be taken to correct the inevitable.
A right framework should be designed to alleviate the farmer from the current level to commercially viable agriculture entrepreneur level and to give due dignity to labour.
Farmers will be empowered and economically enriched, where the generations to come will begin to see the vast potential and opportunity in the agriculture industry.
Hence it is sae to say that will not only remain in their fathers’ profession but will encourage others to take up agriculture as a living as well.