By Saman Indrajith
Rs 325.23 billion had been spent on importing milk and milk-related products during the Yahapalana government, Parliament was told yesterday.
Responding to a question by SLPP MP Mohamed Muzammil, State Minister of Samurdhi, Household Economy, Micro Finance, Self-Employment and Business Development Shehan Semasinghe said that 488.48 million kilos of milk powder and milk-related products had been imported between 2015 to 2019.
Minister Semasinghe said Sri Lanka had imported 86 million kilos of milk powder and milk-related products in 2015, 99 million kilos in 2016, 98 million kilos in 2017, 104 million kilos in 2018 and 98 kilos in 2019. For this purpose, the government had spent Rs 53 billion in 2015, Rs 60 billion in 2016, Rs 66 billion in 2017, Rs 71 billion in 2018 and Rs 73 billion in 2019.
Asked to explain to the House the measures taken by the incumbent government to promote fresh milk production locally in line with its plans to promote organic agriculture, the minister said that Rs 1,773 million had been allocated by the Budget 2022 to promote poultry and dairy farming. A sum of one billion rupees had been allocated for promoting fresh milk production and Rs 315 million set aside to help small and medium scale dairy farmers. In addition Rs 245 million had been allocated to promote veterinary care while another Rs 217 million was allocated for promoting nutrition of animals. Another Rs 40 million was allocated for value addition for the milk products locally.
MP Muzammil: We saw at the Tuesday’s SJB protest a person found guilty by a presidential commission of squandering Rs 400 million on importing milch cows during the yahapalana government. What action will the government take against that fraudster? He helped himself to funds meant for importing milch cows to be distributed among dairy farmers in Anuradhapura. There have been no cows, and nobody knows where the money has gone.
SJB MPs shouted at MP Muzammil asking him to name the person, and in response MP Muzammil said that it was P. Harrison.
Minister Semasinghe: I do not understand why SJB General Secretary MP Ranjith Madduma Bandara got agitated while we were speaking about the plight of cows. It could have been understandable if he had got disturbed if we had talked about Easter Sunday terror attacks which took place while he was asleep.