(LANKAPUVATH | COLOMBO) –The National New Paddy Harvest Festival, known as the ‘Aluth Sahal Mangalya’, was held at the historic Jaya Sri Maha Bodhiya in Anuradhapura Yesterday (02), under the patronage of President Ranil Wickremesinghe. This festival is a longstanding tradition where the first harvested paddy of the Maha season is offered to the Jaya Sri Maha Bodhiya. The event was organized for the 56th time by the Ministry of Agriculture and the Department of Agrarian Services, under the guidance of the Chief Incumbent of the Atamasthana, Venerable Pallegema Hemarathana Thera.
Many farmers from different parts of the country attended the traditional ceremony with the hope of receiving blessings from nature and the Triple Gem. Their wish was for timely showers, bountiful harvests, and a prosperous economy for the country and the nation.
After the traditional ceremony, the President paid his respects to the sacred Sri Maha Bodhiya and received blessings. The procession followed the ancient traditions and began near the Anuradhapura Lion Pillar before entering the Sri Maha Bodhiya premises through the Walimaluwa.
It is a traditional custom for the Atamasthanadipati Ven. Pallegama Hemarathana Thera to fill the golden offertory bowl with fresh rice from various regions of the country, accompanied by the chanting of Seth Pirith by the Maha Sangha. During this year’s ceremony, President Ranil Wickremesinghe also participated in the filling of the golden bowl with rice.
That is an interesting and significant cultural practice for the offering of pure bee’s honey and ghee which is a way of showing respect and gratitude to the sacred Jaya Sri Maha Bodhiya, which is considered one of the most revered Buddhist relics in Sri Lanka. It also reflects the importance of nature and the traditional agricultural practices that are deeply ingrained in Sri Lankan culture.
Mr. Chinthana Wilegoda, Chairman of the Traditional Rice Farmers’ Protection Organization, presented President Wickremesinghe with a bundle of rice pods that corresponded to his age. The President then distributed region-specific seeds and rice varieties to farmers from all nine provinces. Additionally, the President received a digital copy of the 56th National ‘Aluth Sahal Mangalya’ commemorative edition.
The Atamasthanadhipathi, Nuwara Kalaviya Chief Sanghanayake Ven. Pallegama Hemarathana Thera delivering a special exhortation said;
The farmers have expressed their grievances about the inadequate prices they are receiving for their crops. We are empathetic to the challenges faced by farmers.
A substantial amount of funding has been allocated by the government towards supporting the agriculture industry and farmers. It is imperative to address the issues faced by farmers in order to advance the country as a whole. Providing effective solutions to farmers’ problems has the potential to resolve many of the issues plaguing the nation.
There is a need to modernize agriculture and promote sustainable practices by equipping farmers with modern knowledge and techniques. The current president possesses the necessary leadership qualities to drive this initiative forward. This endeavour transcends politics and is a crucial step towards progress for the entire nation.
Minister of Agriculture Mahinda Amaraweera also expressed his views;
Upon assuming office, the President inherited a situation where farmers were protesting on the streets, indicating the gravity of the issues they faced. The President took charge in such circumstances. When the responsibility of the Ministry of Agriculture was entrusted to me by the President, he instructed to ensure the timely supply of fertilizer to farmers to enhance crop yield for both the Yala and Maha seasons.
President Ranil Wickremesinghe had forewarned about an impending global food crisis. Consequently, he held discussions with the Indian Government to secure the required fertilizer for the Maha season. It was only due to his personal intervention that we were able to obtain the necessary fertilizer from India.
As a result of his efforts, we were successful in providing the necessary urea fertilizer for the Maha season, and we even distributed the stock received from the Chinese Government to farmers, free of charge. This enabled us to achieve our target harvest during the Maha season, and we were able to produce 3.3 million metric tons of rice. In gratitude for this success, we offer our gratitude at the Sacred Sri Maha Bodhiya. Moreover, we have been advised by the President to reach out to farmers and provide them with relief instead of requiring them to come to our offices.
We are currently developing a QR code system for farmers to provide them with relevant allowances and subsidies seamlessly. Additionally, we have already discussed reducing the price of herbicides by 10% in the future. We are also exploring the possibility of introducing a third season for cultivation, in addition to the current Yala and Maha seasons. The third season has already commenced in the Hambantota district, where it is being cultivated as an alternative crop, rather than paddy. We encourage farmers from other districts to apply for this third season as well.
We are also planning to incorporate modern technology into agriculture. Our goal is to transition crops that traditionally required 2.5 acres to grow to a more modern, efficient system that can be achieved in just half an acre of land.
We have successfully promoted the cultivation of sour bananas as an export crop, and we are currently exporting one container of sour bananas every Saturday. We aim to increase this export volume to two containers by next month.
The President has allocated a total of 56,000 million rupees towards the development of the agriculture industry. This presents an opportunity to modernize the industry and introduce new technologies. In the past, we used to rely on credit to obtain fertilizer, but the President has taken steps to pay off this debt. With these efforts, we aim to establish agriculture as a major economic foundation for our country. We are all committed to achieving this goal.
Chancellor of the Rajarata University, Ruwanweli Chaityaramadhipathi Venerable Ethalavetunu Weve Gnanathilaka Thera, The Maha Sangha, including the Chief incumbent of the Lankarama Viharaya Venerable Ralapanawe Dhammajothi, Agriculture Minister Mahinda Amaraweera, Minister of Ports and Shipping Nimal Siripala de Silva, State Minister of Finance Shehan Semasinghe, Member of Parliament SM Chandrasena, Senior Advisor to the President on National Security and Chief of Staff to the President, Sagala Ratnayake, Governor of North Central Province Mahipala Herath and other officials attended this event.