Sri Lanka loosens fertilizer ban on some crops as food prices skyrocket


ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka is gradually relaxing a sudden ban on chemical fertilizers and allowing urea and “plant nutrients” for several crops, a senior official said, while the agriculture minister has denied any easing for paddy or vegetables.

Agriculture ministry secretary Udith K Jayasinghe told media that it was not possible to meet all fertilizer needs from domestically produced fertilizers.

“The nitrogen content of organic fertilizers is around 3 to 4 percent,” Jayasinghe explained. “For paddy, 80,000 metric tonnes of nitrogen are needed for this season. “

“It cannot be done entirely from compost fertilizer at the national level. “

However, Agriculture Minister Mahindanda Aluthgamage denied that chemical fertilizers would be allowed for paddy and vegetables.

Vegetable prices in Sri Lanka have almost doubled to around Rs.300-600 per kilogram, with heavy rains also compounding the problem. In Sri Lanka, vegetable prices tend to increase in November and December, but the price peaks of 2021 are unusually high.

Sri Lanka has also printed money over the past year, driving excess liquidity to around Rs 200 billion at a time.

When money is printed, excess demand in the national economy drives up prices as their recipients – usually state workers – appropriate goods and services and currency shortages are also created as import demand is increasing. Subsequent recipients of printed money see prices rise.

The economic hub of Nuwara Eliya, a key vegetable growing region, was closed on Sunday after farmers refused to send in crops.

Traders in economic centers said incoming harvests had dropped. At Colombo’s Manning Market, the daily intake of vegetables has increased from 2.5 million kilograms to around 500,000 tons.

Jayasinghe said the heavy rains helped wash away the fertilizers.

He said permission had been given to import fertilizers for export crops such as tea, rubber and coconut, as well as specialized fertilizers needed for greenhouse crops.

Jayasinghe said second-generation fertilizers have been recommended by expert committees that have looked into the issue.

In Sri Lanka, due to subsidies on basic chemical fertilizers that began in 2005, the use of advanced fertilizers is limited and overuse has been encouraged, critics said.

Minister Shashindra Rajapaksa said a meeting will be held on Monday with President Gotabaya Rajapaksa on the fertilizer ban.

Sri Lanka banned chemical fertilizers after the Association of Government Doctors and a Buddhist monk Athuraliye Rathana campaigned against them, claiming that kidneys and other noncommunicable diseases were caused by agrochemicals (wusser visser ).

The GMOA said that according to Pliny the Elder, a Roman author, ancient Sri Lankans lived for over 140 years when there was no chemical fertilizer.

“Don’t think that just because we say chemical fertilizers, they are poisons (wussais vissai),” he said.

He said science should be used for decision making.

Jayasinghe said insecticides and weedkillers had been authorized.

He said that a ton of urea has gone from US $ 800 to US $ 1,000, and it is difficult to get the best quality fertilizer.

There might be possibilities to obtain fertilizers under government-to-government agreements, he said. (Colombo / Nov20 / 2021)


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