President Mahinda Rajapaksa left the Island this afternoon for a visit to Italy and the Vatican on an invitation by the Holy See.
President Rajapaksa will arrive at Fiumicino Airport in Rome in the evening.
The highlight of the President's visit will be an audience with
His Holiness Pope Francis at Apostolic Palace which will take place tomorrow.
Thereafter President Rajapaksa will have talks with His Eminence Pietro Cardinal Parolin, Secretary of State and Prime Minister of the Holy See.
During his stay in Italy, President will meet Sri Lankan expatriates living there and will also have discussions with SLFP organizers for the European Union, Rome and Northern Italy.
Meanwhile the President met representatives of several small rubber estate owners associations at Temple Trees this morning before he left for the Vatican.
During the meeting with small rubber estate owners, the President directed his officials to take steps to set up a fix rate for rubber in order to bring relief to cultivators.
The world market situation and the inclement weather pattern have caused the rubber prices to decline. The local demand for latex is 150 thousand metric tons but the country produces only 133 thousand metric tons of latex.
The President further said during the meeting that the government is committed to protect the local farmers and the local industries.