The dairy farmers who have purchased the imported dairy heifers have to face a dire crisis as they are now on the brink of losing their property to survive.
Namal Karunaratne, National Coordinator to All Ceylon Farmers Federation noted that the import of heifers was commenced by Basil Rajapaksa along with a company called Wellard Rural Exports. He noted that a Sri Lankan company called Foresight connected to Sumal Perera of Access was involved in the project. He added that the agreement was not a through an agreement and if the government needed they could have stopped the import of the other 15 000 heifers. He added that instead they made the payment anyway and the Director of the External Resource Department was connected to this. He added that the director had informed the ministry secretary, Renuka Ekanayake, who is the wife of Saman Ekanayake, in writing. He noted that Saman Ekanauake is the secretary to the prime minister.
Namal Karunaratne noted that all of them were connected to the scam and they should be brought to justice. He finally added that they were using the powers of Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe to run these scams in broad daylight.
Meanwhile, News 1st visited a number of farms in the Maskeliya, Hatton and Dambulla areas where its owners had purchased these imported dairy heifers. It is unfortunate to report that one such dairy heifer breathed its last breath while our teams were at the location. At another scene, a post mortem of a deceased heifer was being carried out. Against a backdrop where there are plans in place to import 15 000 more dairy heifers into the country, this was the opinion of the subject minister in this regard.
P. Harrison, Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Aquatic Resources Development noted earlier at a parliament session that 25 liters are produced from one cow in his farm as well. You can call him and ask that. I do not say that in every farm that amount can be obtained. But both of us are not veterinarians. It is the veterinarians who point out that there is a lack of food consumption with these animals. This is an agreement reached between the two countries. Therefore we have presented facts to the Finance Ministry as well. The government should take a decision on the debt incurred from that project.
JVP MP posed the question to Minister Harrison saying that the heifers taken by Lakshman Wasantha Perera and Wijith Wijayamuni produce better milk than the rest. You can easily obtain 25 to 30 litres from their cattle. But the heifers purchased by businessmen and the dairy farmers can only produce 7 to 8 liters of milk.
The Minister responded that there is a problem with the food given to the animals. The reason that the cows taken by Lakshman Wasantha Perera produce better milk than the rest is because of the care given to them.
The farmers responded to this statement by saying that they give some of the best minerals in the country. We have given everything that we’ve been told. But there is no milk. We give, soya, we give corn. We make corn into powder and give it. What else can we do? We give about 60 to 85 kg daily. We were unwise to sell the old animals. We have laid carpets one carpet is Rs 12600. We could have made use of that money.
The dairy farmers purchased these imported cows based on the instructions of the authorities by obtaining loans and by mortgaging their property.
They are now facing hardships and the risk of their property being taken over by these financial institutions.
Another farmer commented that 8 of his animals died in three months. He has not even received a death certificate claiming the reason behind the death of these animals. My house and all my property have been mortgaged to the bank. The banks are after us now as we have not been able to pay the debt. They are going to auction our lands and get the money. I have spent about Rs 330 million. I am helpless. All my businesses have collapsed and my property are going to be auctioned.
It becomes clear that if the government had a genuine and a real need to uplift the dairy industry in the country, they could have done so, by protecting the cattle in the country.
This claim is further solidified by what this farmer had to say: “This is a cow that was here before the imported heifers. It has given birth to 10 calves. We obtain 28 to 30 liters from this cow”.
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