Sri Lanka warned of problems ahead from alternatives to glyphosate

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka’s agriculture and tea exports may suffer due to the use of alternative chemicals after glysophate, a weedicide, was banned without scientific evidence, a top official has said.

Sri Lanka suddenly banned glysophate two years ago, following unproven claims and an outcry that it was responsible for chronic kidney disease, which seems to strike farming communities in hot dry areas.

"Who should have taken that decision? We have a registrar of pesticides, we have a fertilizer secretariat, we have a medical research institute and a tea research institute," Rohan Pethiyagoda, chairman of the Sri Lanka Tea Board, told a forum of planters. "Nobody was consulted. Someone woke up one morning and said: ‘Oh, let’s ban glyphosate’, and to this day there is nobody who is accountable for that decision."

Pethiyagoda said farms were now using unauthorised alternatives.

"These are now coming up in various importing countries," he said. "Last month, we had Diuron (a photosynthesis inhibitor) discovered in Germany in excessive quantities, MCPA has been a problem in Japan. Sooner or later, this is going to lead to importing countries putting restrictions on Sri Lankan tea imports.

"This is a serious problem, but I cannot wake up this government to think seriously about it. Goodness knows we have tried."

Pethiyagoda said the Sri Lanka Tea Research Institute should have funding to find alternatives, but its budget was only 90 million rupees, which was the cost of two expensive vehicles.

"You need new cultivars, new soil management and shade regimens, and the possibilities of irrigation and none of these things are happening," he said. "Of course they told the TRI to find alternatives, but nobody gave them any money to do it, so it’s not happening."

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