Tuesday, October 3, 2023

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UN hails Sri Lanka’s Green Agriculture drive despite public misery

The “Green Agriculture programme” of the government being carried out by the government has back fired pushing the island nation into a famine and dwindling food reserves with people and farmers cursing against the present ruling party.   

How ever Agriculture Minister Mahindananda Aluthgamage has vowed to stand by President Gotabaya Rajapaksa to continue the Green farming even if it affects his political image.

He said during a meeting with officials attached to the Agriculture sector that a “wrong advice given by various persons had resulted in a crisis in the agriculture sector. 

The UN Assistant Secretary-General Kanni Wignaraja also commended Sri Lanka’s green agriculture program.

This was conveyed by Wignaraja when she called on President Gotabaya Rajapaksa on Wednesday 04..

Wignaraja serves as the United Nations Development Program’s (UNDP) Assistant Administrator and Director of the Regional Bureau for Asia and the Pacific.

According to the President’s Media office, Wignaraja said Sri Lanka was ranked 87th out of 165 countries in the 2021 Sustainable Development Report, moving seven points ahead from the previous year’s ranking. 

The President said that a comprehensive mechanism had been set up for this purpose, including the Presidential Task Force on Economic Revival and Poverty Alleviation and the Presidential Task Force on Creating a Green Sri Lanka and Sustainable Solutions to Climate Change.

In the wake of wide spread protests and agitation campaigns of the people, the government has  abandoned its quest to become the world’s first completely organic farming nation n, announcing it would immediately lift an import ban on pesticides and other agricultural inputs with effect from November 21 in 2021.

The island country has been in the grips of a severe economic crisis, with a lack of foreign exchange triggering shortages of food, crude oil and other essential goods.

Authorities had already walked back restrictions on fertiliser imports for tea, the country’s main export earner.

But ahead of planned farmer protests countrywide  Sri Lanka’s agricultural ministry said it would end a broader ban on all agro chemicals including herbicides and pesticides

Vast tracts of farmland were abandoned after the import ban, first introduced in May.

Shortages have worsened in the past week, with prices for rice, vegetables and other market staples having doubled across Sri Lanka.

Supermarkets have also rationed rice sales, allowing only five kilograms (11 pounds) per customer.

President Gotabaya Rajapaksa had justified the import ban by saying he wanted to make Sri Lankan farming 100 percent organic.

The policy was introduced after a massive hit to the cash-strapped island’s economy in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic, with tourism earnings and foreign worker remittances drastically falling. 

Authorities attempted to save foreign exchange by last year banning a host of imported goods, including some food and spices.

Sri Lanka also shut its only oil refinery last month after running out of dollars to import crude.

With a view of promoting green agriculture despite mounting public protests, two Chinese companies were given an order  to supply organic fertiliser but  the samples that these Chinese companies sent, both were contaminated. 

That is, both of them had chemicals and they were not organic at all, meaning that the plan again failed. 

Now, under increased pressure, the government had no option but to approach India and the Indian organisation IFFCO that is Indian Farmers Fertiliser Cooperative Ltd was asked to export their liquid nano and fertiliser to Sri Lanka.

 This liquid nano fertiliser from IFFCO has been tested to be completely organic. However, the nitrogen content in this liquid fertiliser is much lower than what the farmers actually required. 

2.5 litres of this product only provides 100 grams of nitrogen. When the paddy crop requires at least 50 kg of nitrogen, which is much higher than what was given to them by the government. 

However, since there was no other option, IFFCO got into the action with the help of the Indian government and they have started supplying this liquid fertiliser to Sri Lanka, which has now been given to their farmers. 

As expected, this has resulted in a much lower production of food grains in the country, forcing the Sri Lankan government to import food from outside.

The Sri Lankan government is importing food from outside, which again would not be organic, which means the same thing could have been produced in Sri Lanka itself if the government would not have banned these things.

 Realising its mistake, the Sri Lankan government on the 24th of November lifted the ban on chemical fertilisers and allowed the private sector to import this. But the impact of lesser grain production will be seen in Sri Lanka in the coming weeks as well.

As the story ends here, but there’s a very interesting side about this story. That is, it gives a chance for India to revive its relationship with Sri Lanka.

When the Sri Lankan government needed organic fertilisers, they asked two Chinese companies to import them. 

Now, what happened was these Chinese companies were told that you send your fertilisers to Sri Lanka and after the fertilisers come here, people’s bank of Sri Lanka, which is also in China, will release the money to it. 

So when they sent their fertilisers and Sri Lanka check that they are not organic, there is contamination, obviously, the People’s Bank of Sri Lanka refused to give them the money, 

leading to the Chinese government becoming very angry. So angry that China has blacklisted the People’s Bank of Sri Lanka. Thus  deteriorating the diplomatic relations between the two countries.

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