Recommendations to Revive Sri Lankan Agriculture
Posted on May 6th, 2022

The Academics’ Movement to Safeguard Agriculture in Sri Lanka (AMSA-Sri Lanka)


The Academics’ Movement to Safeguard Agriculture in Sri Lanka (AMSA-Sri Lanka) proposes the
following short-, medium- and long-term measures to address immediate and medium- to longterm
threats faced by Sri Lankan Agriculture.
Immediate Threat:
There is an imminent threat of widespread crop failure in the current (2022) Yala season because
of the shortage of agrochemicals (inorganic fertilizer and synthetic pesticides). A failure of the
Yala rice crop could lead to a shortage of seed paddy for the next (2022/23) Maha season, thus
creating the possibility of a substantial food shortage in 2023. Food imports to fill-in such a
shortage will require a colossal sum of foreign exchange.
Proposed immediate actions towards short-term solutions:
It is clear that during the next two seasons, sufficient quantities of inorganic and organic fertilizer
will not be available to fulfill the nutrient requirements of any of the major crops. The same is
true for pesticides, both synthetic and biological.
Therefore, crop management practices in the next two seasons should aim to obtain the highest
possible yield with limited fertilizer and pesticides while minimizing the threat to food security and
increasing the net foreign exchange earnings.
AMSA proposes an immediately-implementable action plan based on the following guidelines:

  1. Prioritized allocation of limited stocks of fertilizer and pesticides to selected
    crops
     High priority: Paddy (staple food), Tea (main foreign exchange earner), Maize
    (animal feed). In paddy, a higher priority should be given to seed paddy in
    allocating fertilizer. The total seed paddy requirement for the next two seasons
    (Maha 2022/23 and Yala 2023) will be 6.4 million bushels.
     Medium priority: Vegetables (widespread local consumption), chilli and onions
    (widespread local consumption), pulses, export-oriented crops other than tea
     All other crops: Allocation of fertilizer and pesticides based on availability after
    fulfilling the requirements of high- and medium-priority crops
  2. Prioritized allocation of limited foreign exchange (including donor funding) to
    import nitrogen fertilizer (preferably Urea) with a limited quantity of potassium fertilizer
    (preferably Muriate of Potash)
     Limited foreign exchange should not be used to import ineffective and expensive
    fertilizer types such as liquid nano-fertilizer, amino acids, biofertilizer etc.
     Foreign exchange to be allocated for importing only the key pesticides for which
    there are no non-chemical alternatives to control major pests, diseases and weeds
    on a ‘need-to-use’ basis
    Page 2 of 8
  3. Use part of the 600 million US Dollar loan facility from the World Bank to
    purchase the following essential inputs:
     260,000 Metric Tons of Urea for rice, maize and tea for the year as estimated by
    the National Fertilizer Secretariat (Appropriate quantities for each crop to be
    decided based on the estimated cultivated extent for rice and maize for Yala 2022
    and Maha 2022/23 seasons, separately, and the current extent of tea)
     Hybrid seeds of maize, exotic vegetables and seed potato
     Explore the possibility of obtaining part of the Urea requirement from the Indian
    Credit Line
  4. Provide 50% of the recommended nitrogen fertilizer for each crop and aiming to
    fulfill part of the shortfall with available locally-produced organic fertilizer
  5. Promote technologies that minimize nutrient losses and achieve high nutrient
    use efficiency
    A list of technologies along with their essential features is given later in this document.
  6. Provide guidance to farmers via the extension services of the mandated
    governmental agencies such as the Department of Agriculture (DOA), Department of
    Agrarian Development (DAD), Department of Animal Production and Health (DAPH),
    Provincial Departments of Agriculture (PDOA), and Animal production & Health (PDAPH),
    Tea Small Holding Authority (TSHDA), Tea Research Institute (Advisory Division) etc.
     Ensure that recommendations made by the Departments and Institutions under
    the Ministries and State Ministries of Agriculture, Plantation, and Irrigation shall
    only be based on proven and scientifically-valid experimentation
     The Head of the Institutions under the Ministry and State Ministries of Agriculture,
    Plantation, and Irrigation shall be responsible and accountable for the
    recommendations made for implementation at the farm level in Sri Lanka
     Extension services for paddy and other field crops (OFCs) to be coordinated
    centrally by the Department of Agriculture (Extension & Training Division)
     Task forces appointed so far to be dissolved immediately or to work under the
    authority and direction of the mandated governmental agency
     Establish a mechanism for farmers to access essential climate information for the
    cultivation of different crops provided by the Natural Resources Management
    Centre of the Department of Agriculture
  7. Introduce regulatory measures and mechanisms to ensure quality for all types of
    fertilizers (including those produced and marketed as biofertilizers, organic fertilizers and
    natural mineral fertilizers) that are produced in Sri Lanka
  8. Provide a partial-subsidy for nitrogen fertilizer and a full-subsidy for high quality
    organic fertilizer
    Page 3 of 8
  9. Initiate community garden and home garden programmes at the provincial level
    to support nutritional security with careful identification of requirements, without affecting
    the existing market mechanisms and commercial cultivation of crops (e.g. vegetables and
    fruits)
    Proposed technologies that use limited fertilizer with greater efficiency
    (A) Good Agricultural Practices (GAP)
    GAP is a collection of ‘good practices’ at all stages of the production, processing,
    transport and marketing process of a crop. This represents the most feasible and
    readily-available and immediately-implementable technology at the present moment.
    o Promote the adoption of the already available GAPs in all possible crops via farmer
    awareness programs using a range of available methods coupled with effective
    market linkages (e.g. GAP-certified products to be sold at super market chains)
    o Design GAPs using the existing knowledge base by DOA-appointed teams of
    experts with assistance from universities
    The GAP technologies are recommended for immediate implementation:
    A1. Integrated nutrient management (INM)/ Integrated Plant Nutrient
    Management Systems (IPNMS)
     Provide a combination of inorganic and organic fertilizer in accordance with the
    nutrient requirement of the crop and the fertility of the soil
    o Use an appropriate % of the DOA recommendation of inorganic
    fertilizer requirement depending on the availability
    o Supplement the crop’s nutrient requirement with organic fertilizer
    produced locally through government-sponsored programs
    o Coordinated by the Central DOA and the provincial DOAs and carried
    out via Agrarian Services Centres and for the tea smallholders via
    TSHDA
    o A separate program of distribution to the tea plantation sector after
    consulting the RPCs and depending on their available stocks of
    inorganic fertilizer
    o Facilitate the local production of biofertilizers that have been
    recommended by the DOA
    A2. Integrated pest management (IPM)
     Promote the limited use of essential synthetic pesticides (for which there are
    no non-chemical alternatives) for major crop diseases, pests and weeds in
    combination with available biological and cultural methods of control
    o Farmer awareness programs of currently-feasible IPM packages for
    major crops to be conducted by the central and provincial DOAs
    o Identify the most critically-needed pesticides and expedite their imports
    o Facilitate the local production of biopesticides that have been approved
    by the Registrar of Pesticides
    Page 4 of 8
    (B) Precision agriculture (PA)
     Promote precision agricultural practices that are tailor-made to specific crops
    grown under specific soil and climatic conditions with flexibility for real-time
    adjustment
     Promote the already-developed PA packages for selected crops via farmer
    awareness and training programs of the DOA
     Facilitate adoption of available PA packages recommended by the DOA and
    other commodity research institutes
     Promote the use of soil test kits to determine the site-specific nutrient
    requirements
    All above INM/IPNMS, IPM, PA practices/technologies,
     Involve an appropriate combination of synthetic and natural inputs while taking in
    to consideration the existing soil fertility, climate and the socio-economic
    conditions
     Aim to achieve an economically-viable crop yield with the minimum usage of
    inorganic fertilizer and pesticides while addressing the concerns of food security,
    food safety and environmental safety
     Are designed to reduce the reliance on chemical methods of nutrient and pest
    management by using a range of non-chemical, agronomic and biological methods
     Are aimed at long-term improvement of soil fertility and reduction of pest
    populations which could lead to more eco-friendly agricultural practices in the
    medium- to long-term
    Immediate Specific Technological and Policy Interventions
     Facilitate seed paddy production to support cultivation in the 2022/23 Maha season
    o About 6.4 million bushels of seed paddy are required for the whole year to cultivate
    around 1.3 million ha of paddy fields. Of this, 1/3rd is required for Yala season
    (mainly obtained from the cultivation done in the previous Maha season) and 2/3rd
    for the Maha season (obtained from the cultivation done in Yala season). Hence,
    immediate interventions are required to encourage the research stations and
    farming community in selected areas to produce good quality seed paddy during
    this Yala season (e.g. by cultivating around 450,000 ha) to be used in cultivation
    in the next Maha season (to cultivate around 830,000 ha)
     Initiate negotiations immediately with the Government of India to include agricultural
    inputs such as fertilizer, pesticides (only those registered in Sri Lanka) and required seeds
    (except seed paddy and other prohibited items by statute) to be included in the recently
    adopted Indian Credit Line to have quick access to such inputs to support the agriculture
    sector
    Page 5 of 8
    Medium-term threats:
    The measures described above are aimed at achieving yield levels sufficient to avert a nationwide
    food shortage in the next two years, with a very limited stocks of agrochemicals while facing
    many other constraints such as fuel shortages.
    It will take another 3-4 years before the Sri Lankan economy will be in a position to purchase the
    full complement of essential agricultural inputs (i.e. inorganic fertilizer, essential pesticides, hybrid
    seeds, fuel for farm machinery and post-harvest processing) to use them on crops at the
    recommended levels. As a result, Sri Lanka’s agriculture and food security will continue to be
    vulnerable to the volatilities of the global political and economic forces.
    Furthermore, because of the higher input costs and their reduced availability, it is likely that the
    cultivated extents of most annual crops will decrease in the next 3-4 years. Therefore, achieving
    the national production targets of rice, maize and other field crops will require measures to
    produce a higher crop yield from a reduced cropping extent (i.e. an increase in productivity).
    In view of this scenario, AMSA recommends the following medium-term measures:
    Medium term solutions:
  10. Develop annual and/or seasonal cultivation planning of crops and production-oriented
    planning in animal sectors with the participation of the state, private sector and lead
    farmer organizations
  11. Establish a centrally-controlled agricultural extension systems with a well-coordinated
    information flow through the National Agriculture Information and Communication Center
    (NAICC) of the DOA involving DOA, PDOAs, Mahaweli Authority of Sri Lanka, and private
    sector using ICT for effective communication
  12. Strengthen and expand the resource-efficient technologies proposed as immediate shortterm
    solutions
  13. Design GAP and PA technologies for crops for which they are not currently available and
    update the current GAP program packages using the existing knowledge base by a DOAappointed
    team of experts, with the assistance from universities
  14. Establish a mechanism to encourage adoption of the GAP-certification process for selected
    crops (e.g. Rice) across the country, with the participation of Department of Agriculture
    (DOA), Provincial Departments of Agriculture (PDOA) Private Sector and farming
    community, while facilitating an effective market mechanism for the GAP-certified
    products
     Initiate activities to promote of GAP-certification programs in all possible crops via
    farmer awareness programs using a range of available methods
    Page 6 of 8
  15. Introduce field-tested and validated recommendations for the application of organic
    fertilizer to supplement the nutrient requirements of specific crops when a fraction of the
    recommended inorganic fertilizer is used
  16. Invest in research programs on organic fertilizer production and their field evaluations
  17. Import limited quantities of phosphorus and potassium fertilizer (preferably Triple Super
    Phosphate, TSP, and Muriate of Potash, MoP) after importing the full national requirement
    of nitrogen (preferably Urea)
  18. Upscale the granular nano-fertilizer that has been developed by the Sri Lanka Institute of
    Nanotechnology (SLINTEC) for it to be used within Sri Lanka
  19. Promote the development of biofertilizers and biopesticides locally with the coordination
    and regulation by a national authority while providing financial assistance when required
  20. Establish green manure crops in uncultivated arable lands for the green manure to be
    used both in-situ and ex-situ as an amendment to increase nutrient retention and reduce
    losses
  21. Improve local and international marketing channels by converting the current ‘open loop’
    strategy in to ‘closed loop’ strategies with the aim of establishing proper and efficient
    coordination among all the actors involved
    These measures are designed to:
    (a) Achieve stability in the Sri Lankan agriculture sector in the next 3-4 years through
    introduction of resource-efficient technologies (e.g. GAP, INM/IPNS, IPM, PA etc.)
    (b) Steer Sri Lankan agriculture back on track to achieve national food security
    (c) Restore farmer confidence and trust
    (d) Establish a foundation to address the long-term issues facing Sri Lankan agriculture
    Long-term threats
    Sri Lankan agriculture faces several long-term threats which could endanger long-term food
    security, sustainability of farming systems and farmer livelihoods. Some of the major threats are:
    (a) The absence of a national framework harmonize agriculture with the availability of
    natural resources, environmental protection and biodiversity conservation
    (b) Decreasing soil fertility and crop productivity
    (c) Climate change and increased vulnerability to climate change
    (d) Agricultural expansion being in conflict with environmental protection and biodiversity
    conservation
    (e) High postharvest losses
    (f) Absence of value addition
    (g) Non-uniform distribution of revenue among stakeholders in the value chain resulting in
    the primary producers receiving lower share of the revenue and the consumers having to
    pay a higher price
    Page 7 of 8
    (h) Slow infusion of modern, resource-efficient technology
    Long-term solutions
    AMSA proposes the following macro-level policies and initiatives to address the above-mentioned
    key long-term issues and challenges faced by Sri Lankan agriculture and the farming community:
    (1) Positioning Sri Lankan agriculture within the context of a broader integrated
    land management policy
     This will involve a process that will ultimately evolve in to establishment of
    sustainable crops and cropping systems which matches the resource availability
    (physical, human and economic) of the lands in different parts/regions of Sri Lanka
     Such a policy will be essential to meet some of the key future threats such as
    climate change, input scarcity and rising energy costs
    (2) Developing Sri Lankan agriculture along a more physically sustainable path
    This will involve practices to arrest and regenerate declining soil fertility
    (3) Developing Sri Lankan agriculture along a more environmentally sustainable
    path
    This will involve practices to reduce the reliance on and usage of inorganic fertilizer and
    synthetic pesticides
    Establishing facilities to analyze pesticide residues in agricultural commodities and in
    environmental samples to ensure food and environmental safety and build consumer trust
    in food safety
    (4) Evolving towards an agriculture system where new technologies are infused
    This will involve the incorporation of new technologies such as precision agriculture with
    new resource-efficient crop varieties and animal breeds
    (5) Improving the uniformity of economic returns to the producers, processors,
    marketers and consumers in the value-chain of SL agriculture (i.e. food system approach)
    (6) Development of local industries for producing essential inputs such as seeds,
    biofertilizers and biopesticides that have proven impacts based on sound scientific
    experiments
    (7) Strengthening of the research and extension network with the engagement of key
    stakeholders (involving state, private sector, non-governmental organizations, and lead
    farming communities)
    Page 8 of 8
    Names of Signatories, on behalf of the AMSA-Sri Lanka:
    Senior Professor Buddhi Marambe Faculty of Agriculture, University of Peradeniya
    Senior Professor Janendra de Costa Faculty of Agriculture, University of Peradeniya
    Professor Devika de Costa Faculty of Agriculture, University of Peradeniya
    Senior Professor Aruna Kumara Faculty of Agriculture, University of Ruhuna
    Professor T. Sivananthawerl Faculty of Agriculture, University of Peradeniya
    Professor Saman Dharmakirthi Faculty of Agriculture, University of Peradeniya
    Professor Meththika Withanage Faculty of Applied Sciences, University of Sri
    Jayewerdenepura
    Professor Nalika Ranathunge Faculty of Agriculture, University of Ruhuna
    Professor Warshi Dandeniya Faculty of Agriculture, University of Peradeniya
    Professor Nilantha Liyanage Faculty of Agriculture, University of Ruhuna
    Professor Ewon Kalidasa Faculty of Animal Science and Export Agriculture, Uwa
    Wellassa University
    Professor Gangani Samaraweera Faculty of Agriculture, University of Ruhuna
    Dr. Pradeep Gajanayaka Faculty of Technology, University of Sri
    Jayewerdenepura
    Dr. Chammi Attanayaka Faculty of Agriculture, University of Peradeniya

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