Have the attacks on the tea industry and agriculture sectors a sinister political dimension?
Posted on December 23rd, 2017

Chandre Dharmawardana.

Please see:http://www.lankaweb.com/news/items/2017/12/20/the-khapra-beetle-and-using-that-russian-credit-line/

There are those who wish to kill the tea plantations arguing that it is an unprofitable, ecologically unsound, colonially imposed liability etc.  While  some aspects of those arguments are true, many observers have suggested  a hidden agenda  behind all this.  The tea industry is being channeled  to collapse by (i) banning the quite safe herbicide  glyphosate (ii) Getting the Russians to stop buying Sri Lankan tea, (iii) Other actions that are taking place, as well as articles in the newspapers and the email circuit against tea,  written by certain individuals who are clearly fishing in troubled waters. Even the unjustified ban on sheet asbestos is now seen in a sinister light. The most significant source of asbestos fiber that is a health risk in Sri lanka arises mainly from motor vehicle brakes and such other sources completely unrelated to asbestos sheeting.  In any case, how many cases of lung cancer caused by asbestos have been reported in Sri Lanka during the last 50 years?

A breakdown in the tea industry will create chaos in the hill country, with its mixture of Tamil, Muslim and Sinhala youth and various communal workers unions, as well as plantation  politics. There are many groups including the Disaster-Capitalism sharks as well as local separatists who can profit from chaos in the hills.

If the tea industry is not profitable, its refurbishment or replacement, or even converting the land to forest is a very complex matter involving technical knowledge, and also the capacity to organize such a transition. When the coffee plantations had to be replaced by Tea in the 19th century, the exceptional administrative efficiency of the British Raj of the era as well as its capacity to coerce populations to obey its will existed. Later, when Tea was hit by “Blister Blight”, Ceylonese scientists and planters  were able to fight it and save the tea industry, unhindered any self-styled Green activists and poorly informed “save-the-planet” from “Vasha-Visha -toxins”  bandwagons that did not exist in that era.

Today, the  Tea industry could collapse under the “Vasha-Visha-Naethi-Ratak” activism  where herbicides considered to be exceptionally safe are banned, and where fertilizers are banned and replaced by products proven to be scams that are claimed to be “organic”. Then our political and administrative set up today cannot lead a transition of the tea country to a regulated, riots and problems free agricultural or ecological future. But that is probably what is being aimed at by those who have been attacking the tea industry in some sort of a fifth column action.

The attack on existing agriculture is not limited to Tea, but it applies equally well to paddy and many other sectors, which are all affected by the policies on herbicides, fertilizers, and the cry for organic food spearheaded by the more wealthy segments of the society.

It is indeed the case that some individuals who have regrouped behind this program  are genuinely concerned  but mis-informed individuals. The public readily believes that most of the chronic illnesses of the modern era are due to “chemicals” being spewed all over the environment. It is this public fear that is being used as a political weapons. There are also people who are committed to false ideologies. In the Soviet Union Lysenko was a  party  ideologue who declared that modern genetics and plant breeding theories were contrary to   Marxism and launched an ideological agricultural program under Stalin, and  caused colossal famines in Soviet Russia. In Sri Lanka too, the attacks on scientific agriculture as well as science itself involve  ideological elements  linked to uninformed eccentrics like Dr. Nalin de Silva, or  to naive  traditionalists who wish to revert to “what was done by our fore-fathers”.  The completely slanderous, scientifically erroneus  book “Waku-Gadu Satana” written by C. Jayasumana (a medical doctor and young  politician) , and carrying a forward by Gunadasa Amarasekera, is very  sobering in showing the extent of misinformation that exists in the country.

Chandre Dharmawardana.

One Response to “Have the attacks on the tea industry and agriculture sectors a sinister political dimension?”

  1. Nimal Says:

    Few of us here in UK along with a Russian Neighbour wrote a very heart warming letter in the form of best wishes and a plea about our tea industry,which many of us depend on. I was told that there was a positive response. I just couldn’t keep up with the events as we are very busy during the festive season.My good friend has a tea estate and he hardly break even because the tea prices are low.

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