President plants turmeric in import substitution drive


Sri Lanka’s President Gotabaya Rajapaksa has planted a turmeric plant in his garden as part of efforts to grow five plants in 1.5 million households as part of an import substitution drive.

This programme was launched in an attempt to meet the household Turmeric requirement of the people in their own backyard, President’s office said in a statement.

It has been decided to distribute five Turmeric plants per each family for a total of 1.5 million households through the project.

To symbolize the launch of the programme, the President planted a turmeric sapling in his home garden at Mirihana.

President Rajapaksa was accompanied by Trade Minister – Bandula Gunewardene, Plantations Industries and Export Agriculture Minister – Ramesh Pathirana.

Sri Lanka has banned turmeric imports, which was mainly imported from India, driving its price up to unusual levels promoting smuggling as well as domestic cultivation.

The state will make available ‘Grade-A t’urmeric plants would available for the public through the Agriculture Project Officers at Agrarian Service Centers, the statement said.

Sri Lanka has controlled the import of a large number of products and banned others outright in a bid to save foreign exchange as unprecedented money printing triggered forex losses and record balance of payments deficits.

Though promoters initially said prices will fall and shortages will end in six month, the spice remains expensive.

The prices may encourage persons living in apartments in the city to also uproot any flower pots and grow turmeric with piped water.

You tube self-help videos are available on how to make turmeric powder.

To make turmeric powder, turmeric tubers have to be boiled or steamed for and then dried in the sun for about four days until they are brittle. Slicing the boiled tubers may speed up the drying process.

The primary tuber (mother tuber) and daughter rhizomes (fingers) have to be boiled seperates for best results. The skin has to be removed (polished) before grinding for the best colour.

Apartment dwellers could dry in the oven at low heat setting, according to self-help videos. After drying the chips have to be ground and sieved.

Unprocessed fresh turmeric which is not dried properly may develop aflatoxin.

In India turmeric is processed in an industrial scale through pressure steaming and processing plants. The division of labour and specialization boosts labour productivity, lowers retail prices, raises living standards of consumers and makes the product export competitive.

Sri Lanka is also planning to ban the import of fertilizer and agro chemicals to save foreign exchange and promote healthy foods. The state is planning to use a fertilizer subsidy to compensate farmers for any crop losses.

Green gram and palm oil imports have already been banned. Meanwhile other analysts have called for controls on the Central Bank to prevent it from printing money and creating monetary instability.