Sri Lanka relaxes its organic policy, allows private sector to import chemical fertilizer to assuage farm anger

In what comes as a major policy reversal on the farm front, much like what happened in neighboring India, Sri Lanka has allowed its private sector to import chemical fertilizers, months after the government led by President Gotabaya Rajapaksa had put a blanket ban on the use and import of the same

Nov 25, 2021
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Sri Lanka organic farming

In what comes as a major policy reversal on the farm front, much like what happened in neighboring India, Sri Lanka has allowed its private sector to import chemical fertilizers, months after the government led by President Gotabaya Rajapaksa had put a blanket ban on the use and import of the same. The move came as anger and frustration among farm and other allied sectors boiled over in the last few weeks amid a severe shortage of organic fertilizer. 

Rajapaksa held a cabinet meeting on Tuesday and the government Wednesday issued a gazette notification canceling the previous notification on the ban. However, the government claimed the organic policy remained in place and it would continue to push for organic farming with State support would continue.

“There is no change in the Government’s stand towards sustainable and organic agriculture. Henceforth (the) Government support by way of subsidy, maximum guaranteed price where applicable, etc., will be limited to only those who use organic farming,” Agriculture Minister Mahindananda Aluthgamage, was quoted as saying by Daily FT. 

Agriculture and other sectors, including the country’s prized tea industry, suffered a heavy blow as Rajapaksa continued its aggressive push for turning the country into an 'organic utopia’ overnight. Crisis signs were ignored, experts’ advice went unheeded, which culminated in one of the worst agrarian crises Sri Lanka has witnessed in its recent history. 

The government faced allegations of being detached from reality and the unfolding storm. Political opponents accused Rajapaksa of putting his ego above the national interest. However, when the farmers started protesting and a realization set in that the country’s food security was compromised, the government relented. 

“Our Government is not stubborn,” the agriculture minister said, calling the recent move a “humane response” to appeals from the farm community. 

However, he acknowledged that “due to the pandemic, delays in procurement, pricing, and logistic issues, adverse weather, the process wasn’t smooth, threatening a food insecurity,” 

Many termed the present crisis of the government’s own making. Tourism and tea exports bring a big chunk of foreign exchange to the country. While tourism came to a halt during the pandemic, the government’s abrupt ban on chemical fertilizers also compromised the productivity of the tea sector. And, all this isn’t something that the government had not been warned of. 

(SAM)