Sri Lanka to distribute unused estate land among small farmers

Dr. Ganeshan Wignaraja and Dr. Dinusha Panditaratne

Nov 22, 2010 (LBO) – The Sri Lankan government intends to distribute among small farmers uncultivated land on tea estates operated by listed regional plantations corporations, President Mahinda Rajapaksa told parliament. The RPCs will be given six months’ notice to cultivate unused land, he said during a speech on the government budget for 2011.

If such unused lands are not cultivated after the six month period, they will be distributed among small holders, he said.

The move is meant to improve cultivation of tea, the island’s main export commodity, and maintain annual production at least around 300 million kilos.

Plantations firms have previously protested against land grabs by the state. The firms have bought long-term leases from the state.

The firms originally appropriated private land, violating the property rights of local and foreign plantation investors.

Zimbabwe also wrested large plantations, and distributed them among war veterans, leading to a collapse in agriculture.