Now is the time to increase agricultural productivity: STO

Managing Director of State Trading Organization (STO), Hussain Amru has said that it has been proven that we cannot depend on tourism and imports solely and that it is the high time to increase agricultural productivity to a sufficient amount such that the country can be self-reliant on it.

Amru made the statement in a news brief held jointly with Fisheries Ministry to provide information on the platform created by both parties collaboratively to purchase agricultural products and to reduce the losses incurred to local farmers .

He stated that the global economy is facing a downturn due to the COVID-19 pandemic and it has clearly shown that the Maldivian economy cannot be maintained depending entirely on tourism and imports. Therefore, it is necessary to increase agricultural products to a level that it will be enough for the country to be self-sufficient, rather than depending on other countries.

Amru said agriculture and farming must be promoted to solve the issue, under which income-generating opportunities for farmers have to be provided. He further said various works are being carried out jointly with Fisheries Ministry to promote agriculture.

Amru further said farmers did not receive a reasonable income for their agricultural products in the past, due to which many lose interest in this venture.

“Earlier farmers did not know how much they will earn for their agricultural products. Most people do not want to get into this since it does not generate much income. However, since we have created a platform for the farmers, we will be informed in advance what the farmers are producing. When they inform, we quote reasonable prices. Hence, they are paid for what is being produced on the spot”, said Amru.

Amru added that a collection centre is being established in the north harbour to collect the farmer’s produce. Effective from Thursday, registration is open for collections and those who wish to register with the company must submit a designated form providing proof they are farmers. The form is available from the STO website, STO shops, and pharmacies in the atolls. The completed form can be sent via Viber, web app, or to STO shops and pharmacies in the atolls. The registration will be confirmed within three days with a unique ID for each farmer, said Amru.

Amru said crops such as rice could also be produced in the Maldives since it was produced even before. He said the company would purchase rice at reasonable prices from those who produce rice in the country. He further said the work of producing wheat-flour is now being carried on.

Speaking in the news brief, Fisheries Minister Zaha Waheed said as of now agricultural training have been provided to six people in India and through these six people; similar training will be conducted in the islands.

She further said agricultural training had been recently conducted in various parts of the Maldives and the work was halted due to COVID-19. Furthermore, work is being carried on jointly with the Economic Ministry to provide resources for those who wish to newly venture into the field, said the minister.

She further said if resort owners of the resorts that produce agricultural products wish to market their products, the government is willing to help and purchase those products.