Thursday, December 30, 2010

Another year, another page, another change and another challenge

I feel this year has flown by faster than most, and when I realized at one stage that I had not blogged for 5 months, it was simply because I just did not have a spare moment to do so. I have had to evolve over time and meet the new challenges that I have faced. Change in my field is par of the course and if I do not change, I will be steamrolled by events, all out of my control.

When I began this particular journey 6 years ago, I was selling Rs70,000 a month in King Coconuts(thambili). Today I barely make Rs15,000 and that is after price revisions, which means the volume loss is ever greater. To explain this phenomenon, which may not be understood by the reader; when short of nuts, I used to go outside my farm and pluck from neighboring houses and lands too meet the demand, as I used to drive my pick-up to the wayside stalls, near parliament, along the Western Provincial Council and Central Environmental Authority offices as well as along the University of Colombo as well as other streets including opposite DS Senanayake School. I sold everything I transported to Colombo.

Now these wayside stallholders have been evicted by Gotabhaya Rajapkse and his edicts of cleaning up unauthorized structures, and they have had to find alternative sources of employment and I have had to change my product range and work balance. In their place are fancy Coca Cola stalls selling sweet water and so the wholesome thambili has been sidelined in favor of cleanliness and development.

I have had to change with the times, and find some part time work that keeps me even more occupied than before, as I have to commute to office, work late nights and rent another place close to the workplace to make it a practical proposition. My staff have not improved their conduct, or mended their ways, and despite being on the lookout for more suitable persons to do the work, have not been able to find them.

Still my intentions and goals remain unchanged, and I have now resolved to draw up a plan that as its objective is to establish an efficient and productive agricultural business, provided I am able to obtain the services of the relevant and suitably qualified personnel. There is no other way in which one can truly justify spending the time and effort in this field, unless the rewards are worth the risk.

The immediate concerns of the public re sky rocketing food prices have not been addressed satisfactorily, and I still believe this critical national food security topic requires addressing urgently, and I am part of the solution. To that end, despite the brickbats from my friends poking fun of me for not being able to satisfy their needs for wholesome, nutritional food, due to shortage, I am still determined to continue.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Have you ever had your liquor cabinet raided in Sri Lanka? Tell me about it!!

This is such a uniquely Sri Lankan saga, that I must write about it for the benefit of my readers overseas who want to know what it really is like living in this splendid land. What prompted me to write is the tragedy I was told about yesterday.

At my open house last evening I was told that my neighbor had unexpectedly returned home one evening and stumbled upon the fact that a usually locked room had been opened, and upon entering found a trusted staff member rifling through the liquor cupboard having found the hidden keys. (in SL the alcohol is usually kept locked away) Upon seeing the master he had run out of the first floor window and fallen badly injuring himself, in addition to possibly losing an eye. So much for long service and a chance of improving one’s position in life.

This is just a tip of the iceberg, but nevertheless it was the first time that I heard of one actually coming to such grave injury on account of the need to raid let alone drink alcohol. Any type of alcohol cannot be left unattended. I was at an exclusive Christmas Party at one of the top hotels in Colombo recently and the host who has this event, always provides his own liquor, both to ensure quality of the drink, wines and spirits are unblemished, but also to ensure that none goes missing into the hands of the servers. His trusted employee who is a teetotaler is in charge of serving the drinks into the tumblers and wine glasses which the waiters then serve to the guests.

It is a well known fact, ask a wedding planner, that a good proportion of alcohol served at weddings disappears. It is noteworthy that a bottle of Dom at Rs30K is not siphoned off to be sold, but to be drunk as quickly as possible mixed of course with Sprite to get thoroughly sloshed! It matters not one iota as to the value of the bottle, it is much the same to the drinker if they can get high on it.

In a similar vein, at a relative’s home just this week I was informed that all the boxes of premium whiskey that had been carefully purchased and stored for an occasion over a period, were suddenly found to be empty when the cupboard was opened recently. So the theft of the bottles was not noticed till then as the empty boxes looked untouched! They have no idea as to when it occurred, at one go or over a period, and by whom as there may have been many domestics in the house.

No doubt I have lost more than a share of bottles, and have been embarrassed when guests at Polonnaruwa bring their liquor and my boys swig it and are under the table even before they leave. Ask the tourist hotel managers how they control mini bar losses and their whole accounting for alcohol. It is something that occupies an inordinate amount of their management time. It is a huge cost to the industry.

I must also add the favorite trick is to fill the bottles with water to take attention away from the missing liquor from the open bottles, sometimes using artificial colorings too!!!

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Imports of Chicken and Eggs for the Festive Season – Will you bet on fact or fiction?

Today 8th December, the Minister of Consumer Affairs announced in Parliament that 2500Tonnes of Chicken and 50Million eggs will be imported for the Festive Season. Please watch the facts as to how much chicken and eggs will be imported and the actual dates of arrival in the country and another 4 days before it gets to the retail outlets so that the likes of you and I may have a chance of buying such!

I would like to know how many of the readers believe this will happen, even if it comes after the festive season, as there is no practical way of getting it to the retail store within 14days. So why do we even permit such statements to be made and secondly reported? It is because we read and believe that will be done, and sing his praises. Do you remember how 8 weeks ago the cess on the import of Big Onions was reduced? Well the imports of this at the lower price is yet to take place, as Big Onions are still Rs180/- a kg and we have been promised that the price will come down at the end of the week once the new shipments arrive.

In my farm shop, I sell eggs, which I buy from my neighboring farm. On Monday I was speaking to the owner of the farm about the price I paid for the eggs, namely Rs14/-, the previous week I had paid Rs11/- and asked him if next week it will rise further due to the festive season demands. He said as feed costs have risen and if demand exceeds supply it will inevitably be so. Only imports can stop the rise.

This is another case where the planning period is longer than the knee jerk reaction to criticism the agents of the Government indulge in. If they were serious about controlling the price of chicken and eggs, then sufficient notice would be given to the trade and orders placed so that the extra quantities would be in the shelves when needed. The producers and consumers know the score. Remember what happened once with the rice. In an attempt to control the rising price, rice was imported, but it came to the shelves once the next harvest was in, resulting in a glut, and this massacred the price down, decimating the livelihoods of farmers who have to sell their crop as soon as it is harvested due to their personal needs.

Is this a precursor for a repeat of the same? If the chicken and eggs arrive when demand drops, then the resulting oversupply will force those producers of this food item to sell at a loss, thereby seriously affecting them, some of whom will go out of business and prices will accordingly rise. They (ministers) who are making these decisions on behalf of the nation, though elected by the people have never produced as much as a pea in their lives, and don’t know the production cycle or the import cycle. You cannot run a country in this haphazard manner betraying the public!!

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Wikileaks – it means nothing to us though it does to the US

I guess people with not much to do are having a field day discussing the revelations of the above. It is called entertainment. So while I have a lot to do, I guess I will also surrender and add my two cents to the discussion, in the half hour I am waiting to go to an event this evening at RIZE. I think it is great to have this info come out, so students of diplomacy understand the types of information sent in the diplomatic ‘cables’ to their bosses. It is so normal as to be unsurprising. I am sure our learned and not so learned diplomats have super Sinhala words to describe the antics of the people in their postings, and would dearly love to get our take on the same, as I would fall of my chair in fits of laughter about such things like the antics of a Queen’s Garden party at Buckingham Palace, both on the ignorance of our diplomats of the strange customs of the West and their descriptions thereon.

Sinhala is such a flowery language for these descriptions, that I hope someone takes a few of the dispatches and translates them into Sinhala for some our readers to keep them enlightened and entertained as to common practice the world over.

I think it is so obvious that every country big or small, rich or poor pass on information in a similar vein, as all these diplomats meet locals at these cocktail parties, where some get themselves blind drunk, as I have occasion to note our high ups sometimes do and make an ass of themselves, the ruling and opposition I put into this category, as alcohol inebriation crosses party lines!

I am therefore curious what kind of reports get publicized in the case of dispatches from Colombo. I hope we get a good dose of fun out of them. Remember it is an opinion only of a diplomat who writes his or her understanding, which may or may not be accurate. It is therefore important not to take umbrage or place too much I told you sos as a particularly biased politician is keen on emphasizing for whose gain I don’t know. It shows his ignorance of the matter, as if he is any better.

It is a source of news for media who seem starved of stories, and so are playing all the air time for what it is worth. The cynics of this world will say this is actually a CIA plot to expose this, as they have their reasons and blame it on Wikileaks to take all the flack. Sit back, relax and let your mind wander the possibilities and rationale, without just reading the actual texts and putting any weight on it.

In summary, I think it is nothing more than wonderful entertainment and any more serious implication is just for personal agendas. Just look at how the Israelis are loving the leaks, as it puts them in good light vis a vis our great friend Iran, as they seem to be more a ‘pariah’ to the Arabs, and so is this a Mossad plot!!