Tensions rise between China, Sri Lanka over rejected fertiliser shipment

Tensions ratcheted up between Sri Lanka and China over a shipment of rejected fertiliser, with Sri Lankan Director General of Agriculture Dr. Ajantha Silva stressing on Monday that Colombo has not agreed to re-test the rejected Chinese organic fertiliser by a third party, a day after Beijing’s envoy announced that a re-test was being done

Nov 15, 2021
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China-Sri Lanka

Tensions ratcheted up between Sri Lanka and China over a shipment of rejected fertiliser, with Sri Lankan Director General of Agriculture Dr. Ajantha Silva stressing on Monday that Colombo has not agreed to re-test the rejected Chinese organic fertiliser by a third party, a day after Beijing’s envoy announced that a re-test was being done. On Sunday, the Chinese Ambassador to Sri Lanka Qi Zhen Hong during his visit to Kandy announced that the Chinese Fertilizer Company and Sri Lankan authorities have come to an agreement to re-test the stock of fertiliser through a third party, newsfirst.lk reported.

However, Sri Lanka’s Director General of Agriculture dismissed his comment and said there is no provision to re-test rejected fertiliser, as per the National Plant Quarantine Act.

On November 13, Director General of Agriculture Dr. Ajantha de Silva had said that the Chinese organic fertiliser samples onboard the Hippo Spirit carrier will not be retested.

He said although there were requests to have the fertiliser samples tested by a third party, there is no requirement to do so.

The Director-General of Agriculture also added that the fertiliser samples have not been handed over to a third party for testing, and mentioned that he is satisfied with the tests carried out by the National Plant Quarantine Service.

 De Silva emphasized that the Hippo Spirit, carrying over 20,000 metric tonnes of rejected Chinese Organic Fertilizer, will not be allowed to enter into the country.

The trouble arose when on September 17, Sri Lanka’s Minister of Agriculture confirmed that a microorganism identified as ‘Erwinia’ that is harmful to crops was discovered in samples of the Chinese organic fertiliser brought down ‘unofficially’ to Sri Lanka and tested.

The supplier was the same, Qingdao Seawin Biotech Group Co., Ltd.

On September 29, Sri Lanka’s Agriculture Minister Mahindananda Aluthgamage announced the suspension of organic fertiliser imports from China.

This was after Director-General of Agriculture Dr. Ajantha De Silva on September 28 confirmed that harmful bacteria was detected in a fresh sample (2nd batch) of the Chinese Organic Fertilizer, from Qingdao Seawin Biotech.
The Ceylon Fertilizer Company Limited, which was importing the fertilizer from China, got a court order to block payment to Qingdao Seawin Biotech over the shipment of organic fertiliser which was contaminated.

Following this, the Colombo Commercial High Court issued an order on October 22 against Qingdao Seawin Biotech, its local agent, and the People’s Bank.

The People’s Bank of Sri Lanka was then blacklisted by the Economic and Commercial Office of the Chinese Embassy in Sri Lanka for failing to make the payment, according to the Letter of Credit and the contracts between the two parties.

On November 7, Qingdao Seawin Biotech Group Co., Ltd., the Chinese organic fertiliser manufacturer, sent a Letter of Demand to the National Plant Quarantine Service, demanding US$8 million in reparations.

The Letter of Demand said that Qingdao Seawin Biotech Group Co., Ltd., has suffered significant loss and damage of a sum of US$ 8 Million and continues to suffer further loss and damage due to loss of reputation and goodwill as well as of existing and potential business, due to the negligent conduct of the National Plant Quarantine Service.
It demanded that the NPQS make a payment of US$ 8 Million within 3 days as reparation.

In early September, the Hippo Spirit carrying 20,000 metric tonnes of organic fertiliser left China’s Qingdao Port for Colombo.

Following the detection of harmful bacteria in the samples of the fertiliser it was carrying, the ship was diverted to Singapore.

But the Hippo Spirit didn’t return to China and continued its journey to Colombo Port.

In early November, the vessel was seen some 61 nautical miles away from the coast of Weligama, in the southern region of the Sea of Sri Lanka, and later moved closer to the Port of Colombo.

The Sri Lankan authorities have banned its entry into Colombo Port.

(SAM)