Fertiliser Issue
Posted on November 10th, 2021

By Dr. Tilak S. Fernando

Islandwide farmers are continuously protesting about the unavailability of fertiliser. One cannot blame the Government for the inadequacy of officials responsible for distributing the compost. The poor Minister gets blamed over weaknesses of the distribution sector. It is due entirely to the inefficiency of the officials in charge of distribution. This can be proved when the writer went to the Maharagama (Agrarian Services ) Govijanasewa office to get his allocated quota of fertiliser on 26 October.

Fertiliser Issue

Farmers make a Raucous 

Initially, the Govijanasewa office advised farmers that the carbonic fertiliser would be available on 26 October. Accordingly, the writer, too, went on that day to get his allocation. Everyone who went to collect their allocation that day also spent extra money on petrol, which is expensive these days. The officials advised farmers that they expected the delivery to arrive only on 27 October.

 Indeed, the officials should have known of this fact before advising the farmers in advance. The farmers were very annoyed and made a raucous wanting to know why officials were unable to keep them informed. Indeed, the Govijana officials would have received this information in advance about the change of situation. 

Despite this fact, they did not inform the local farmers accordingly. If they were to pass the buck on whoever they expected to receive delivery of carbonic fertiliser from, then those responsible officials should take the blame. This type of unpleasant situation occurs due to the lackadaisical attitude of the so-called ‘government servants’.

 It must be the same situation in other areas of the country where farmers are protesting. Therefore, the finger should directly point at all the office staff responsible for distributing fertilisers to farmers around the country at the appropriate time. One cannot blame the Government for each and every claptrap the officials get involved in. 

The Government gave the carbonic fertiliser free for this Kanna and promised to pay compensation for the farmers who lost their paddy crops. But the frustration of the farmers of not getting the fertiliser in time seems to be due to the negligence of officials responsible for a smooth operation of providing fertiliser. These days Thalawathugoda and elsewhere in the country, the rains occur at odd intervals with lightning and thunder included, thus making it impossible for farmers to work in their paddy fields. 

Aren’t the Govijana officials aware of this fact? On 27 October the Govijana office at Maharagama advised farmers about the vehicle transporting fertiliser having a mechanical problem. However, fertiliser was finally made available only on the afternoon of 28 October. Farmers staged an uproar inside the ‘Govijanasewa’ office at Maharagama over all these difficulties created for them by officials. The situation could be identical Islandwide, now farmers in specific areas want the President to visit and observe what’s happening. 

Imported Organic Fertiliser 

Meanwhile, another controversy has brewed over the consignment of the Chinese Qingdao Seawin organic fertiliser ship from China. Initially, samples of this first consignment tested were highly contaminated. Still, rumours were floating to indicate that the same vessel had turned around, changed the name, and anchored in the Colombo outer harbour. It contained 18,000 MT, of which samples were highly contaminated; hence the Government had to reject that consignment. The opposition is making capital out of this. 

The opposition leader joined in with farmers in various parts of the country and urged ‘the President to take a step back on inaccurate decisions, such as banning chemical fertilisers.’ Also opening an SJB Head Office in Wattala on 1 November, Sajith Premadasa said, The President and Government have no choice but to rectify these inaccurate decisions.” One should think whether Sajith Premadasa’s head needs examining! Alternatively, the President is working to build a healthy society in Sri Lanka. 

In contrast, the opposition leader wants chemical fertilisers imported when many people and farmers are affected by CKD (Chronic Kidney Disease). Apart from that, the whole world is saluting the Sri Lankan President for being sensible and turning towards an ecofriendly society in Sri Lanka. One is inclined to think whether the Opposition leader has any common sense about CKD and its consequences on farming families, especially in those areas where chronic kidney disease is widespread? 

Rejection and Government’s stand

 Regarding the rejection of organic fertiliser from China, Cabinet spokesman Dr. Ramesh Pathirana said. Although the ship is in Colombo’s outer harbour, it is not allowed to dock and never be allowed to be in Sri Lankan waters.’ However, the Director-General of the Agricultural Department said: It was the first bulk order from China that was contaminated and not the entire order. The Government has not rejected the Chinese company outright.” Dr. Ajantha de Silva quoted in the Ceylon Today on 27 October, was quoted that there were around four consignments of the Chinese consignments; hence the whole consignment was not rejected by the Government. Dr. Silva has also said if the shipment samples sent to Sri Lanka in the future are to be free from contamination, then the Ministry of Agriculture would accept the second batch of bulk fertiliser from Qingdao Seawin and so on. If the second consignment sample is free from microorganisms, we will reject that order too.”

 Meanwhile, the Chinese company insisted that every consignment goes through a National Plant Quarantine Service (NPQS). Nevertheless, the Ceylon Fertiliser Company (CFC) Ltd obtained another interim order from the Colombo Commercial High Court against the Chinese Qingdao Seawin Organic Fertiliser Company. The Court Order prevents the opening of any pending Letters of Credit in favour of the Chinese Qingdao Seawin organic fertiliser company.

 The latest is that the National Plant Quarantine Service (NPQS) tested the samples sent to them have confirmed that the first consignment of fertiliser indeed contained certain types of harmful bacteria. The first batch was a partial shipment worth more than Rupees one billion secured through a tender process confirmed by the Ministry of Agriculture. 

COP26 UN Conference 

At the COP26 UN Climate Change Conference in Glasgow, Scotland, twentyfive thousand delegates assembled. It included Head of States of one hundred and ninety-seven countries. President Gotabaya Rajapaksa urged the international nations to work together in a true spirit and cooperation to overcome the climate crisis and sustain humanity and the planet. He pronounced that Sri Lanka recently restricted the import of chemical fertiliser, pesticides weedicides due to public concerns and biodiversity impacts. 

Problems for the Government are compounded with various protests and threatening to take work-to rule decisions by several trade unions on multiple issues. It is mainly because global commodity prices have rocketed after the Covid-19 pandemic and economies everywhere in the world are only beginning to recover from the pandemic. The ordinary person on the street cannot understand this fact. India cut excise duty on petrol by Indian Rupees five (USD 0.0671) per litre and Ten rupees on diesel. 

Sri Lankan Government cannot do so because it incurred many expenses to curtail the suffering of poor people and ordered millions of inoculations to combat Covid-19. At the same time, the Government lost a substantial amount of money in taking care of those families dependent on a daily wage. Nevertheless, one hopes that with the increase in tourism and the President in Glasgow negotiating with other world leaders, a ray of bright sunshine will shine on Sri Lanka, and new life, hope and freshness to every citizen will dawn upon soon. 

tilakfernando@gmail.com 

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