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244 Memorandum from Dexter to Watt

Colombo, 12 February 1953

Economic Development Programme of Colombo Plan—Additional Aid in 1952/53 for Ceylon—Conference with Sir Oliver Goonetilleke

Reference is made to our telegram 322 of 11th February, 1953, regarding the Ceylon Government's suggestion how the extra money might be best used.

2. The High Commissioner3 had a long conference with Sir Oliver Goonetilleke at which I was present. Sir Oliver said that the increase in rice and other food production was regarded by the Government of Ceylon as of the very highest priority. He said that Ceylon simply could not afford to go on importing rice and it must use her undeveloped country in the dry zone for rice and other food production.

3. Regarding our preliminary suggestion that the extra money which might be available should be used for an increase in the number of tractors supplied by Australia under the Economic Development Programme for 1952/53, Sir Oliver said that his Ministry had indeed given careful consideration to the suggestion and felt that, if tractors were the only equipment available for the purpose in the time, Ceylon would be very grateful to receive them.4

4. He said, however, that the gift of 100 tractors by Australia used in conjunction with other tractors previously imported and being imported by the Ceylon Government would be sufficient to enable him to commence a large scheme of mechanised paddy farming either in the approaching yala season or, if the tractors, were not available then, in the maha season. In this regard please see our memo, 198 of 12th February, 1953,5 concerning my conversations with Mr. Ratnatunge.6

5 Sir Oliver said that the tractors alone were not sufficient to ensure an increase in Ceylon's rice and other food production in the dry zone when the rains failed. The recent North-east monsoon in this area has not been substantial enough to ensure a good rice harvest. Sir Oliver said that in the Jaffna area water could be provided from wells and underground streams for rice production if windmills and pumps were available. He also said that even when the rains failed in the dry zone, thus ruining the rice and other food crops, the rivers were still flowing. His agricultural advisers believed that the provision of irrigation pumps to tap the rivers would enable rice and food production to continue even during a drought. His advisers also felt the need for another 25 tractors to add to the hundred and also for 25 3-ton trucks with open bodies to carry the harvest, stores, etc.

6. Stating that he had the facilities and technicians to look after any new equipment adequately, Sir Oliver then produced the following list which he handed to us:—

100 Wind Mills and Pumps: 8 to loft, wheels 20 to 40ft. towers, 4% to 8% pumps for shallow wells 10 to 15ft. deep at �A200 each....�A20,000

50 Engine-driven Irrigation Pumps (Large capacity lowhead pumps) at �A1,500 (complete)..... �A75,000

25 Twenty-five – Thirty-five H P. Tractors with implements, 10% spares and freight charges, etc. (implement will necessarily be the same as required previously) at �A2,000 each....�A50,000

25 Three-ton Trucks with open body at �A2,000 each ,...�A50,000

Total �A185.000

7. The High Commissioner informed Sir Oliver that the amount of extra money available under the Economic Development Programme for this year would be less than �195,000 and that, if the list were acceptable to the Australian Government, a scaling down of request would probably be necessary.

8. The High Commissioner requested Sir Oliver to inform us in writing that the Ceylon Government regarded the above list of equipment as of the highest priority in Ceylon's drive to increase rice production. Sir Oliver undertook to send us this letter within the next few days.

9. As soon as the Fourth Policy Session of the Council for Technical Co-operation finishes, I shall make a detailed tour through the area where Sir Oliver wishes to use this equipment. Ceylon's agricultural authorities have promised full co-operation for this trip.

[NAA: A1838, 160/11/1/1 part 2]

1 David Dexter, Official Secretary, High Commission in Colombo.

2 The telegram set out the types of equipment requested by the Government of Ceylon: 100 wind-mills and pumps for use in the Jaffna area, 50 engine-driven irrigation pumps, 25 tractors with implements and spares, 25 three-ton open body trucks.

3 A.R. Cutler.

4 Casey had announced on 6 February that Australia would supply Ceylon with one hundred tractors under the Colombo Plan. The plan was to use the Australian-built tractors in the dry zone of Ceylon where traditional village methods of cultivation with buffalo-drawn ploughs were inadequate.

5 The memorandum explained that the Government of Ceylon planned to use the tractors, if they arrived on time, for the yala or small season (planting in March/April) and that if they arrived later, they would be used for a large programme of mechanised rice production in the maha or big rice reason (planting in September/October).

6 An official in the Ceylonese Agriculture Department.

Last Updated: 10 January 2017

Category: International relations

Topic: History