Sri Lanka needs more protectionist agricultural policies: agri economist

August 01, 2007 (LBO) – Sri Lanka needs a more protectionist trade policy to ensure vulnerable sections of society are protected from the negative effects of liberalization while enabling its advantages to be exploited, a top agricultural economist said. This was one of the main reasons for the repeated failure of Doha talks, Herath said. “There must be proper timing of liberalization,” Anura Herath, senior agricultural economist of the Ministry of Agriculture Development said Tuesday.

“We did it too drastically and too quickly.”

Sri Lanka should have done more to protect vulnerable sectors of the economy, especially agriculture which is important, he told an international trade law conference organized by the Sri Lanka Law College.

Protection

He did not specify how protection could be increased.

Critics point out that Sri Lanka’s agriculture is already protected. Tea imports are largely banned, there are excise duties against the import of rice, large onions and potatoes.

Both potatoes and onions were encouraged to be cultivated in Sri Lanka after 1977 and consumers are now forced to pay high prices as a result.

In the 1980’s jungles were destroyed and new areas were brought under paddy cultivation. Sri Lan