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Sri Lanka has signed an agreement with the World Bank for US$125m in credit to aid in the modernisation of its agriculture sector.

The funds will be invested in improving efficiency and creating an attractive, modern business by focusing on higher-value produce, such as fruits and vegetables, and promoting commercial and export-viable agriculture.

“Sri Lanka’s history is deeply rooted in agriculture and its paddy cultivation tradition. Past practices can inform the future by preserving and building on the country’s farming traditions.There is now space to diversify and promote high-value, export-oriented food crops,”explained Idak Pswarayi-Riddihough, World Bank country director for Sri Lanka and the Maldives. “This shift is crucial for income growth, poverty reduction, reducing inequality and better nutritional outcomes.The new approach corresponds directly with World Bank Group’s twin goals.”

Investments will also be made in modern technology, building farmer organisations and supporting agriculture policy development.

“This project aims to demonstrate new agricultural practices and institutional arrangements in the project areas, linking smallholder farmers into modern agriculture value chains and creating attractive jobs, including for women and young people”saidUlrich Schmitt, programme leader at the World Bank. “Innovation and new technology will help improve not only the sector’s economic efficiency but also enhance resilience to natural disasters and climate change.”

The World Bank said in a statement released 17 January that some 30,000 smallholder farm households will benefit directly from the programme, which will be implemented by Sri Lanka’s Ministry of Primary Industries and Ministry of Agriculture.