Monday, February 19, 2007

Potato Trial Demonstration Project

Monday, February 19, 2007
SIX MILE POST, AMPARA DISTRICT – Hon. Ferial Ashraff, Minister of Housing & Common Amenities, together with the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA), today witnessed the successful harvest of a Potato Trial Demonstration Project in Ampara District. The project has been undertaken by the Canadian Agro Sustainability Partnership Inc. (CASP) by planting seed potatoes in five locations in Ampara District in early December to determine the potential for potato production in the District.

The CASP demonstration project for potato production has proven that potatoes can indeed grow successfully in Ampara District. CASP identified a number of local farmers who planted the potatoes in small plots (typically 20 m x 20 m). CASP, together with the Department of Agriculture, closely monitored the planting, growing, and harvesting process to ensure best possible management and technical support for the farmers involved.

These CASP potato trials were the first of their kind in Ampara District in more than 15 years and results have been beyond expectation. However, there is considerable additional research and other initiatives to be taken before potatoes can be a significant cash crop for the farmers of Ampara District. CASP and the Department of Agriculture have closely monitored all aspects of the project and are now preparing a report on the results, next steps, etc.

The benefits of commercial potato production in Ampara District include:
  • Reduced dependence on rice production for area farmers.
  • A new cash crop with rates of return for farmers significantly higher than most other crops.
  • Replacement of large quantities of imported potatoes by locally grown potatoes to be consumed by the 600,000 people of Ampara District.
  • Significant new livelihoods opportunities in potato production, processing, and marketing.
Minister Ashraff and the Ministerial Task Force have responsibility within the Government of Sri Lanka for CASP’s preparation of the Ampara District Master Plan. CASP’s activities under the Master Plan are funded by the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA). The Master Plan includes all sectors of socio-economic development in Sri Lanka and is to provide a way forward for the next 15-20 years. It encompasses tsunami reconstruction, conflict reconstruction, and socio-economic opportunities for the District, with agriculture and fisheries being priority economic sectors.