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Tuesday January 25th, 2022
Agriculture

Sri Lanka looking to mix organic, inorganic fertilizer in hopes of higher yield: minister

Paddy farmers are protected in Sri Lanka and provided free inputs including water and fertilizer. Source: FAO Photo.

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka is looking to increase productivity in agriculture by mixing organic and “chemical” (inorganic) fertilizer after a controversial decision to go organic-only was reversed late November, a cabinet spokesman said.

Finally rectifying a dragging and self-inflicted crisis brought about by the almost overnight decision in April 2021 to ban agrochemicals, the government last week formally decided to import agrochemials and sell it at unsubsidised market prices while continuing to promote organic agriculture.

Co- cabinet spokesman Ramesh Pathirana told reporters on Tuesday (30) that the government has permitted the agriculture ministry and the plantations ministry to import the quantities of chemical fertilizer needed for harvest.

“But the policy of the government is to give prominence to organic cultivation and organic fertilizer would be provided at a subsidized rate,” said Pathirana.

“But chemical fertilizer, once imported and made available in the market, will be sold at a market price. It will not be subsidised.

“We are very hopeful that a proper mixture of organic and chemical fertilizer will provide new impetus and a boost to productivity that will see production gradually go up.”

President Gotabaya Rajapaksa in April banned imports of agro chemicals claiming the move was based on his policy framework outlined in his 2019 election manifesto Vistas of Prosperity and Splendour.

President Rajapaksa before his election promised to provide fertilizer free of charge while in his policy manifesto said he would replace the existing fertilizer subsidy scheme with an alternative system while providing “both inorganic and organic fertilizer free of charge to farmers”.

However, cash-strapped Sri Lanka, which spends around 400 million US dollars annually on agrochemicals, stopped the imports of chemical fertilizer in April, which drew protests by farmers in various pockets of the country on a small scale. The protests soon went out of control when farmers were unable to get any fertilizer for the October Maha cultivation season.

The government resisted for two months, but finally caved in late November, allowing the import of agrochemicals.

Farmers have already complained about a drop in their yield in addition to deformed fruits and vegetables due to lack of pesticide and weedicide.

The government tried to import organic fertilizer from China and Nano fertilizer from India, but both moves were allegedly riddled with corruption. (Colombo/Nov30/2021)

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