One of the important handicaps to our development is the low productivity, especially in the agricultural sector where the overwhelming majority of the population is engaged. Raising the productivity of farmers would raise not only their living standards and thereby reducing poverty, but also create a healthy and well-off rural population who will provide an important domestic market.
In this regard, a UDP administration will develop a national agricultural policy to tackle the low productivity and address the constraints faced by our farmers. This will lead to programs and actions in the following areas.
i) Increasing the yield of the land under cultivation. This will require improved technological packages and efficient extension services. Timely access to credit and other related inputs will be encouraged.
ii) Increasing the land area under cultivation. This will entail bringing more land under cultivation. In this regard we shall pursue an active policy of more swamp lands rain-fed rice cultivation through the cultivation of dams and other protective structures against salinization and for water conservation. We shall support construction of causeways and footbridges to ease access and movement inputs to and produce from swamp rice fields.
iii) Improve Credit Service. Access to credit is an important determinant in increasing productivity. Today the credit needs of the farmers have not been addressed satisfactorily. We shall work with the commercial banks and other lending agencies to develop a differentiated and responsive credit system that addresses the various credit needs of the various categories of the farming community.
iv) Provision of Agricultural Inputs. The UDP Government will work with the private sector as well as farmers’ unions to take bold and innovative steps to ensure that agricultural inputs are delivered on a timely basis and in adequate quantities to farmers at reasonable prices. Availability of good quality seeds will be given special attention through, among other things encouragement of Government and private seed production institutions. Village seed and serial banks will be established. The party will address issues relating to farmers at the grassroots level by providing back-up support services in the form of training and other incentives.
v) Marketing Services. Increased productivity will require market outlets. A network of markets will need to be developed especially for the food crops and horticultural produce that will ensure fair prices for the producers. We shall encourage and support development of such markets at national, sub-regional and international levels. Appropriate technologies will be evaluated on processing and preservation of seasonally available agricultural products to increase incomes and availability during other times of the year.
vi) Research and Development. We will develop effective programs to improve on the quality and yield of produce. The successful results of these researches shall be introduced nation-wide through efficient and strengthened extension services. Participatory, multidisciplinary and demand driven research strategies, through which sustainable crops and livestock management systems could be put in place, will be adopted.
vii) Institutional Reform and Adaptation. To support the objective of greater agricultural productivity the institutions in the agricultural sector will be reviewed and adapted to face the new challenges.
In this respect the National Agricultural Research Institute will be capacitated and strengthened in order to enable it to generate agricultural technologies that are environment-friendly and adapted to our socio-economic conditions.
viii) The Soil and Water Management Unit (SWMU) shall be upgraded and expanded with the objective of opening up more land for rain-fed rice and irrigation cultivation in supporting the policy of food security. Also, this unit will be enabled to expand its capacity for tackling the increasing upland soil erosion and degradation problems.
ix) Agricultural Diversification. Agricultural diversification provides another opportunity to raise farm income. In addition to the traditional tree crops, we shall promote the introduction of improved varieties of fruit trees and vegetables. The planting of these trees will not only generate revenue but also improve the vegetation cover. The annual tree planting season will be reinstated.
x) Encourage regional concentration of crop cultivation commensurate with their inherent potential and maximizing productivity