Ambassador Keshap: Thank you so much.
Honorable Prime Minister, we are really delighted to have you here today to help us kick off this very happy event. And ladies and gentlemen, I want to extend to you a very warm welcome and my thanks to all of you as well for making it out to this event on a very rainy monsoon day.
We are here to celebrate, friends, the launch of the Market Oriented Dairy Project. This is the largest American-funded dairy project in Sri Lanka’s history. The United States Embassy here in Colombo and the United States Department of Agriculture are very proud of the role that we play in working with countries all around the world to improve global and regional trade.
Since 1956, Honorable Prime Minister, ladies and gentlemen, the United States has been privileged to be a partner in helping develop Sri Lanka. My USAID Country Director Reed Aeschliman is here. He knows, along with his team who are in the audience, that over the past 60 years American development assistance to help Sri Lanka and to help all of its citizens live a happier and more prosperous life has totaled over two thousand million United States dollars. Two billion U.S. dollars. And this has been, friends, mostly through grant aid, if not entirely through grant aid, that has helped enhance health, connectivity, prosperity, worked greatly to mitigate disaster risk, and much else besides.
The launch today, however, of this 14 million dollar commitment — that’s over two thousand million Sri Lankan rupees — builds on the significant investment that the United States has already made and that complements the efforts by Sri Lanka’s government and the private sector to help increase dairy production and modernize processing.
The Market Oriented Dairy project will focus on commercial sustainability of the dairy sector, addressing access to and availability of, and quality of, and safety of dairy products.
The United States Department of Agriculture will fund project work in the Northern, Northwestern, North Central, Eastern, Central, and Uva Provinces to directly benefit more than 15,000 small-scale and medium-scale Sri Lankan farmers.
Ladies and gentlemen, activity funded through this Food for Progress program will strengthen livestock management capability and adherence to quality and hygiene and best practices, while expanding access to improved cattle and fodder as well as artificial insemination and other necessary veterinary services.
This project is a sign of the strong bilateral partnership and deepening American engagement in Sri Lanka. Other new engagements by my government include transferring a second United States Coast Guard cutter to the Sri Lankan Navy; returning Peace Corps volunteers to Sri Lanka; and the development of a Millennium Challenge Corporation Compact in addition to this project.
Worldwide, the United States supports the growth of a vibrant, global, agriculture system where farmers everywhere are successful and sustainable and food and nutrition are available to all.
Here in Sri Lanka we are very proud to work in partnership with the International Executive Service Corps to implement this project, along with a strong team of sub-recipients and strategic partners in elevating small and medium shareholder farmers from subsistence agriculture to commercial levels. Illustrating this approach, this project’s design offers a wide range of interventions targeting all actors in the dairy sector, but maintains an especially strong emphasis on market-oriented dairy farmers.
In closing, Honorable Prime Minister, we are very proud to join with the people of Sri Lanka and countries around the world in ensuring health, prosperity and happiness for people everywhere. We particularly thank the government of Sri Lanka and the many contributors that have made this project a reality, particularly including the United States Department of Agriculture folks who have come in all the way from Washington. I am indebted to them for beginning such an ambitious and positive project that really demonstrates belief in the bright vision for Sri Lanka that the Prime Minister and the government have articulated. A Sri Lanka that is peaceful, democratic, reconciled, prosperous, well-integrated with the world, with freedom, equal rights, and equal opportunity for all.
Ladies and gentlemen, thank you so very much.