Sri Lanka is now looking at China for anything and everything as the government is compelled to import organic fertiliser to tackle the Maha season manure shortage faced by paddy cultivators.
China is the only country which will be able to supply organic fertiliser at a cheap price compared to other exporters like Vietnam, Thailand and the Netherlands, official sources said.
At a time where the country is moving towards a severe food shortage as a result of a fertiliser shortage following the sudden ban on chemical fertiliser imports, the government is now planning to import organic fertiliser under the President's instructions.
President Gotabaya Rajapaksa has instructed the officials to import the required quantity of organic fertiliser of the highest quality if they are not satisfied with the quantity of fertiliser produced.
The President gave these instructions during a special discussion with officials of the Ministry of Agriculture and organic fertiliser producers at the Presidential Secretariat recently.
The importationof organic fertiliser at this juncturewill exert pressure on the country’s foreign reserves as Sri Lanka will incurmassive cost of at least USD 180 million to meet the the requirement for maha season only.
The cost for chemical fertiliser is in the region of USD 100 - 150 million and this is a saving of USD 30 - 80 million, financial analysts said.
Sri Lanka spent USD 221 million in 2019 to import chemical fertilisers and this amount is expected to rise between USD 300 – 400 million for two seasons with the price hike of crude oil, said the President's Media Division.
The import of chemical fertiliser by Sri Lanka amounted to 1.26 million metric tons per year. Of this 383,000 metric tons were used for paddy cultivation and the remaining 877,053 metric tons were used for other crops.
It is difficult to import high quality organic fertiliser within days due to procedural requirements under a very strict international quarantine regime.
The prices of rice and vegetables will be increased by unbearable proportions and consumers of lower and middle class segments of the society will have to starve due to the failure of the government to provide fertiliser and pesticides on time.
Namal Karunaratne, National Organiser of the All Ceylon Agrarian Federation said that farmers countrywide are now cursing and urging divine powers to punish the rulers without considering repercussions. Promoting organic fertiliser and banning importation of fertiliser without properly analysing and studying its after effects and repercussions as well as social and economic issues etc has pushed the people into the fire from the frying pan, he said.
He noted that the price of rice will double very soon and farmers will intensify their protests as their paddy fields have become barren.
He noted that instead of phasing out the implementation of the organic fertiliser programme, the government has suddenly imposed a ban on chemical fertiliser imports which will have dire consequences for both farmers and consumers.