The Chairman of the All Ceylon Peasants Federation, Namal Karunaratne, yesterday called on government to get the services of the Railway Department to distribute the agriculture produce of the farmers who had been struck by a double whammy – due to the decision to shut down economic centres and the inability to sell produce at a good price.
The government closed down economic centres to prevent public gatherings and to curb the spread of COVID –19.
As a result, farmers who could sell their produce at economic centres, mainly targeting wholesalers, have resorted to selling their goods on road sides and at public playgrounds.
Karunaratne said: “Farmers cannot sell their goods as they don’t fetch a good price. At least the government must purchase vegetables from them. There is an attempt by the government to get the Army to purchase some stocks. That should be appreciated but it does not solve the problem. A bag of vegetables, being sold from lorries, cost around 700 rupees and contains only four types of vegetable. The cost of that amount is around Rs 75 to 100. It shows that the middlemen are making a killing. Neither the consumer nor the farmer gets anything out of this.”
Around 2500 metric tonnes of vegetables are brought daily to the economic centre, in Dambulla, he said.
“A group of farmers cultivated vegetables across three acres of land by obtaining loans to financially support it. They are now helpless,” he said.
He said that farmers complain that produce is purchased at extremely low rates from them, and later sold at exorbitant prices in the market. “Vegetables are purchased at around Rs 15 per kilo and are being sold at five times this rate in other parts of the country,” he said.
He added that the “mafia” involved in such unethical activities should be severely punished as farmers are affected due to the conduct of such people.