The third reading of Budget 2018 was passed by the House last week approving, among other things, a crop insurance coverage for farmers amounting to Rs. 3 billion. This measure is meant to provide insurance to farmers on damage to their crops in the event of extreme weather conditions. However, some farmers The Island Financial Review (IFR) met recently in Norochcholai, Kilinochchi and Kankasanthurai haven’t even heard of it.
Thathiseeran Senadhirajah and Premakumar, two farmers (father and son) in Kankasanthurai who work in a farming community in KKS are a strong link of the Cargills Ceylon’s islandwide fresh produce supply chain. They told the IFR that they hadn’t even heard of this insurance scheme for farmers. Several farmers the IFR met in other areas too said they had no clue about it.
Finance Minister Mangala Samaraweera during his budget speech said that this insurance coverage and financial support to the farmers would help them stabilize their losses in the event of natural calamities.
This insurance coverage is expected to provide Rs. 40,000 per acre in the event of a weather calamity for six crops, namely; maize, soya, big onion, potato, chilli and paddy. According to Budget 2018, part of this Rs. 3 billion insurance payout would be financed by tax payers’ money.
Whether the farmers in these areas were aware of it or not, the IFR found that they were quite happy and optimistic about their livelihood as Cargills Ceylon has secured their future by building a strong market network.
“We can say that Cargills is sort of our crop insurer. For our fresh-produce basket of onion, pumpkin, brinjal, snakegourd, ginger, sour plantain and so on, Cargills Ceylon pays us the best market rates. Cargills comes to our farms and buys our produce so that we are not exploited by middlemen any more. Cargills’ buying policy is transparent and consistent, so selling our agricultural produce to them is something we do with great pleasure. Cargills’ Sarubima programme accumulates funds which are disbursed for our children’s education as well as our community work. Cargills agricultural instructors guide us to adopt progressive farming practices minimizing the use of agro-chemicals and on how to use modern technology in agriculture. Also, the Cargills Bank provides us with micro loans to facilitate and expand our farm work which no other bank ever dared do. Annually we sell vegetables worth Rs. 2 million to Cargills and we make a profit of Rs. 1 million. With the steady cash-flow from our business with Cargills we have built three houses for the members of our family and have bought a Landmaster tractor for our farm work. All this means that Cargills Ceylon is sort of our crop insurer”, the two agri-entrepreneurs said.
Asked whether peace followed by the end of 30-year- war helped their farm business, they said,” Absolutely yes. During the conflict, we’d relatively low production and sales with a bleak future ahead of us. After peace dawned, the whole outlook changed and our farm business started thriving. Our living standard has got a lot better now”, they said.
Haridas Fernando, deputy group manager, agri-business Cargills Ceylon says,”As you have seen for yourself, our farm-produce production and handling standards already meet a lot of requirements of the organic products fact sheet. We should be able to get the organic certification and have our produce labeled ‘organic’ in another six months or so”.