Sri Lanka has partially reversed a hasty decision to experiment with green farming, but the country and its citizens are already paying for this bad mistake in the form of a food crisis triggered by man made agric crop disaster, agriculture experts claimed. .
President Gotabaya Rajapaksa announced a plan in April 2021 ignoring scientific advice of phasing our organic initiative without rushing into it shifting inorganic farming with the aim of making Sri Lanka the first country in the world to ban inorganic fertilisers and crop-protection products that fight pests.
But this week he changed his mind and directed officials to provide required stocks of feretliser to without mentioning the types of fertiliser and pesticides.
This directive is to supply fertliser and provide necessary directions to apply it in their farming will again create confusion among farmers, several grass root level agriculture activists said.
The Government has decided to pay US $200 million compensation for failed organic farm drive as a million farmers whose crops failed under a botched scheme to establish the world’s first 100-percent organic farming nation will be compensated.
The island nation is currently reeling from a severe economic crisis that has triggered food shortages and rolling blackouts as the Covid-19 pandemic sent the tourism-dependent economy into a tailspin.
Sri Lanka’s government, mainly run by seven members of the Rajapaksa family and their close allies wielding ruling power is rushing to avert the crisis made by them, economic experts alleged.
Late last month, Sri Lanka’s plantation minister, Ramesh Pathirana, confirmed a partial reversal of the policy, telling the country’s Parliament that the government would be importing fertiliser necessary for tea, rubber and coconut, which make up the nation’s major agricultural exports..
Food costs are rising around the world as pandemic-related supply chain knots are slowly unsnarled and as prices rise for feed stocks like natural gas that are used to make fertiliser and other supplies. Sri Lanka added to those pressures with its own missteps.
Chemical fertilisers are essential tools for modern agriculture. Still, governments and environmental groups have grown increasingly concerned about their overuse.
They have been blamed for growing water pollution problems, while scientists have found increased risks of colon, kidney and stomach cancer from excessive nitrate exposure.
Some farmers and agriculture industry officials say they are warming to the idea of reducing dependence on chemicals in farming. But the shift was too sudden for farmers who didn’t know how to work organically, said Nishan de Mel, director of Verité Research, a Colombo-based analysis firm.
Verité found in a July survey that three-quarters of Sri Lanka’s farmers relied heavily on chemical fertilisers, while just about 10 percent cultivated without them.
Almost all major crops grown in the country depend on the chemicals. For crops crucial to the economy like rice, rubber and tea, the dependence reaches 90 percent or more.
The April ban went into effect just before what is known as the Yala planting season, which lasts from May to August, and was felt almost immediately.
The Verité survey showed that 85 percent of farmers expected a reduction in their harvest because of the fertiliser ban. Half of them feared that their crop yield could fall by as much as 40 percent.
The fertiliser problem of the farming community has not been solved yet as the urban population is queuing up due to the shortage of essential commodities.
However, the Government already commenced purchasing paddy for the Maha season on 31st January.
Chairman of the Paddy Marketing Board, Neil de Alwis on Saturday (05) visited the Paddy Marketing Board’s warehouse complex in Samanthurai, Ampara to inspect the ongoing purchases.
Commenting to the media, the Chairman requested the farmers to extend their support to the Government by providing the required paddy for the purchases.
The Chairman of the Paddy Marketing Board stated hat the paddy purchasing program in Ampara proved to be successful, with approximately 1500 metric tons of paddy being purchased daily.
Speaking further, he pointed out that Nadu Samba and Kiri Samba, which are generally priced at Rs. 50, 52 or 55, have increased in price this time.
According to him, currently, Nadu costs Rs. 90, Samba Rs. 92 and Kiri Samba Rs. 95. In addition, the farmer receives another 2 rupees for processing and transport at 2 rupees per kilo.
Further, he stated that the stocks of paddy can be brought to farmers’ organisations, warehouses, and farmers can even hand them over to agents.
A mechanism has been implemented for the Paddy Marketing Board to visit the village and make purchases as well, he added.
Farmers across Sri Lanka have intensified their protests due to the lack of fertiliser and being compelled to abandon their farmlands.
These farmers are demanding the government release fertiliser stocks for cultivation ahead of the upcoming harvesting season.