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ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka, which banned chemical fertilizer in April, has decided to allow import of some non-organic chemicals including weedicides and pesticides, a cabinet spokesman said, as protests grew and warnings intensified of crop failures including in exports.
President Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s sudden decision to ban imports of chemicals including fertilizers, pesticides, and weedicides has met strong protests in rural areas where predominantly farmlands of the country are located.
Rice farmers have complained that they are unable to cultivate Sri Lanka’s staple because of lack of basic nursery fertilizers while others have said their harvest have declined with some produce having become much smaller than usual size due to diseases by pests and weed attacks in the absence of chemicals to control them.
Sri Lanka’s rubber farms have warned of sweeping devastation if they were not allowed to import two recommended fungicides while tea farms are also warning of crop losses and severe soil erosion if manual feeding is done from a scraper.
“In relation to weedicide and pesticide, the secretary to the agriculture ministry would take decisions. There are certain decisions we need to import to control certain diseases,” Co-Cabinet spokesman Ramesh Pathirana told a weekly news briefing on Tuesday (26).
“We have a question mark when it comes to weedicide and pesticide. So, for the time being, the secretary of the agriculture ministry is entrusted with the powers to import as and when necessary.”
Sri Lanka’s soil naturally contains Prosperous and some elements of Potassium, but Nitrogen is an essential element to be added to the soil before and during the cultivation.
Sri Lanka was not ready to produce organic fertilizers when the President banned chemical fertilizers, partly to preserve US dollars. The government had been spending around 400 million dollars for chemical fertilizers, weedicides, and pesticides.
The main concern Sri Lanka farmers faced is the lack of adequate content of Nitrogen in organic composts produced in Sri Lanka.
The government imported some liquid Nitrogen to add to the soil aiming to enrich Nitrogen content in the soil, but the import from India has run into controversy over the process.
The import of nearly 100,000 metric tonnes of organic fertilizer from China also has to be suspended because of the presence of harmful bacteria.
Sri Lanka’s tea producers also have complained of reduction in the yield due to no chemical fertilizers. Tea is Sri Lanka’s top agricultural export commodity, fetching an annual export revenue of 1.3 billion US dollars.
Pathirana, also the Plantation Minister, said a nitrogen source will be imported for tea plantation.
“Until the organic fertilizer is produced adequately, we have decided to import some Nitrogen source,” he said.
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