July 24, 2008

Size of NZ Herds Shock for Visitor

By GRAHAM, Kathy

Sandun Thudugala finds it hard to believe one farmer could own 400 cows. In Mr Thudugala's native Sri Lanka, he says 400 cows would mean 400 farmers.

Mr Thudugala, 27, was one of five young people in New Zealand last week as part of a Global Youth Encounter run by Christian World Service.

As part of their visit, the group visited the Morrinsville dairy farm of John Walsh, who milks 430 cows at Kereone.

Mr Thudugala works for a non- governmental organisation in Sri Lanka called Movement for National Land and Agricultural Reform (Monlar), a network of farmer and community organisations.

He said the system worked with those with small farms to "try to ensure the security of their livelihood".

"The first thing we promote is sustainable agriculture, good farming husbandry and also with the help of other organisations we are trying to get back to direct marketing systems," he said.

Mr Thudugala said the arrival of companies such as Fonterra and Nestle had changed the way farmers operated in Sri Lanka.

"It used to be that the Government would guarantee the price the farmer would get for their milk, but the big companies do not do that."

Milk production meets only about 15 per cent of the domestic market requirement, said Mr Thudugala.

He said the Monlar scheme was working to change some of the country's policies to help those with small farms. "The Government is starting to accept they should intervene with the market to protect farmers." - Kathy Graham


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