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The Red Rice Market System

Kilinochchi and Mullaitivu Districts, Northern Province
May, 2012

More than three decades of armed conflict between the Sri Lankan Armed Forces and Liberation Tigers of Tamil Elam led to a steady deterioration of the food security situation along with social and economic infrastructure in the Northern Province of Sri Lanka. Kilinochchi and Mullaitivu are two districts in the north that were severely affected in the final phase of the war, from January to May 2009. In mid-2009, resettlement programs began returning those displaced in the war to their home communities in Kilinochchi and Mullaitivu. Returnees have had access to basic relief in terms of shelter material, food and water and sanitation facilities, in order to re-start their lives and livelihoods, though poverty levels in these areas remain high.

This market analysis seeks to better understand the availability of red rice supply in local markets and any constraints to delivering adequate red rice to those households who need it. The study adapted the standard EMMA approach to the post-war resettlement context of northern Sri Lanka and closely followed EMMA's 10-step process, including a focus on key critical market systems and a combined gap, market and response analysis. Comparison to a baseline market system was not used in this analysis. The target population for this assessment is the war-affected and resettled population in Kilinochchi and Mullativu districts of Northern Province.

Red Rice is the primary staple food consumed by households in northern Sri Lanka. In the targeted district, red rice is widely cultivated to keep for farmers’ own consumption and to sell in neighboring districts where red rice production is not as strong. However, there is a significant group of households without access to land who rely on the market to meet their red rice needs. Kilinochchi and Mullaitivu districts produce net surpluses of red rice; roughly half of the production from these districts is exported to neighboring districts. As a result, the supply in these regions is sufficient to meet the need of the target population, but consumers have limited access to this supply due to low purchasing power.

To strengthen the red rice supply market system in the two districts and to ensure consumers have sufficient availability and access to red rice now and in the future, this study recommends cash for work activities to improve drainage and irrigation infrastructure to increase purchasing power and improve production; support for income generation activities and household-level production; indirect interventions to strengthen farmers’ cooperatives; advocacy to end food aid and transition to cash or voucher-based food assistance; and lastly to advocate for equal wage payments for both men and women to support female-headed households in meeting food and household needs.

Report authors: 
Gregory Matthews, Rajesh Dhungel, Sinnasamy Raguraamamurty, Karthika Tharmalingam, Paramanathapillai Seran
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