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Some companies cultivated traditional rice varieties applied aggro chemicals on the sly and sold their produce in supermarkets at Rs. 180 to Rs. 200 per kilo, the Ministry of Special Projects alleged yesterday.

Secretary to the Special Projects Ministry T. Sakalasuriya, however, assured that from 2015 one kilo of traditional rice varieties would be available at Rs. 125.

Sakalasuriya told The Island that President Mahinda Rajapaksa had called for the cultivation of traditional rice varieties such as Kaluheenaty, Puchaperumal, Suwandal and Krulutuda without aggro chemicals as the chronic renal disease posed a grave threat to the entire nation.

All paddy farmers in 24 districts would be educated on cultivating traditional rice varieties which did not require aggro chemicals.

Sakalasuriya added that Special Projects Minister S. M. Chandrasena and Presidential Co-coordinator to Wanni district Premaratne Sumathipala would meet President Rajapaksa soon to take action to restrict the issuance of import licences to aggro chemical companies by the Pesticides Technical Advisory Committee.

The National Project for the Prevention of Kidney Disease Director Dr. Channa Jayasumana said that seed paddy of traditional rice varieties would be distributed among 2,000 farmers in the Weli-Oya area today to cultivate 1500 acres. The traditional rice varieties sold at the super markets were not genuine, he said. Some companies had been cultivating the traditional varieties by using harmful agrochemicals. But, the unsuspecting consumers were unaware of it.

Dr. Jayasumana pointed out that when the government intervened to educate local farmers on the health benefits of traditional varieties cultivated without the use of aggro chemicals, some companies had lost their grip on the market. "The government’s intention is to provide one kilo of traditional rice varieties at Rs.125 each from next year instead of Rs. 200 which is the current price."

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