JA Group Sends Relief to Tsunami-Ravaged Sri Lanka
A half year has passed since the Sumatra Earthquake and Indian Ocean tsunami occurred. According to the Internationa Red Cross Society and news agencies, the calamity has left a total of more than 228,000 people either dead or missing with Indonesia leading the list of those unfortunate people at 168,000. And a total of 1.72 million people are still evacuated while assistance they need for survival is getting into a full swing through the United Nations and other organizations.
Japan's JA group has been continuing assitance efforts, displaying "symbiosis spirit," mutual-help in the same Asian region. We follow some of the JA group activities.
Isami Miyata, president of JA Zenchu, visited the Sri Lankan Embassy in Tokyo on May 17 to hand over a relief fund amounting to about 11,400,000 yen addressed to the government. The JA Group raised the sum of money through a fund-raising campaign for the relief of agriculture and rural communities of the country hit by tsunami last December caused by an earthquake off Sumatra.
On this occasion, Miyata met with Ambassador Karunatilaka Amunugama and exchanged views on the WTO farm trade talks. They then concurred that Sri Lanka and Japan, both net food importers, need to protect domestic agriculture and confirmed that the two countries should strengthen their links toward that end in spite of differences in their statusﾑone as an industrialized country and the other a developing country.
In the talks, Miyata said that agriculture in both Japan and Sri Lanka is adversely affected by the liberalization of farm trade as their agriculture is borne chiefly by individual farming families cultivating small lots. He hoped that the two countries would work together to have the WTO recognize the rights of importer nations to maintain a level of domestic production and to safeguard food security.
In return, Ambassador Amunugama expressed his deep concerns saying that the import of low-priced foreign foods has increased and the country is under intensifying pressure to lift import restrictions further. He said that increased trade liberalization would destroy Sri Lanka's national fundamentals. He welcomed Miyata's offer of cooperation adding that he would pass it on to the Sri Lankan agricultural minister and others responsible for the farm trade negotiations.
Dayananda, General Manager of Sri Lanka Co-operative Marketing Federation Ltd., was present at the talks, who expressed the hope that the two countries enhance their friendly relations.
A sum of 15 million yen was donated to the federation out of a total of about 86,400,000 yen the JA Group raised as a relief fund for tsunami damage. The fund has been fully allocated as other donations went to Thailand and Indonesia.