Over 30% of population suffer from food related diseases - President

President Maithripala Sirisena and Agriculture Minister Mahinda Amaraweera yesterday, inspecting a stall producing indigenous food items from around the country at an event held at BMICH to mark World Food Day. Picture by Chandana Perera

Despite the country’s positive human development indices, President Maithripala Sirisena yesterday noted that close to 32 percent of the population suffered from medical conditions related to food.

Celebrating World Food Day at an event organised by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) at the Bandaranaike Memorial Conference Hall (BMICH), yesterday, the, President explained that 16-17 percent of the population suffered malnutrition, whilst an equal number suffered from diabetes.

FAO, Country Representative for Sri Lanka and the Maldives Nina Brandstrup observed that the malnutrition rates in children and anaemic rates in women have remained virtually unchanged in the last decade despite rapid economic growth in the country.

“We also have a case of both undernutrition and overnutrition. Whilst there is poor nutrition status across the lifecycle of a person in Sri Lanka, we also have one in two women in the country being obese,” she added.

The theme this year was achieving the second Sustainable Development Goal of ‘zero hunger by 2030’.

President Sirisena however, noted that at a time when close to 200 million people are starving around the world, a lot of food is thrown away or wasted. “In my 27 years in Parliament, I have seen a lot of wasted and thrown away food there. At times, most MPs don’t turn up or they don’t eat there”.

“Apart from waste, 35 percent of the food produced for human consumption in the country was being destroyed by pests (including wild animals),the President said.

“At the UN General Assembly in New York, I met the Executive Director of the International Food Policy Research Institute and I asked him how other countries managed pests. He said that they killed them. Given our Buddhist and Hindu principles followed in the country, it is difficult for us to adopt such measures and many would criticise me for it but I think it is time we adopt a more active pest management strategy like other countries, President Sirisena added.

“We cannot let humans starve and let the animals eat our food,” the President said.

Agriculture Minister Mahinda Amaraweera observed that they were yet to find a successful way to reduce the percentage of crops destroyed by pests every year.

He further noted that close to Rs.16.5 billion worth of vegetables and fruits were spoilt every year, while being transported from the farmer to the consumer.

The Ministry he explained had put into implementation several programmes to be able to produce 90 percent of the food consumed within the country by 2030. This would also save the country millions in foreign exchange spent every year in the importation of fruits and vegetables.

 

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