Sri Lanka Ministries of Health and Environment accused of failing to help “market” organic fertilizers

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka’s Agriculture Minister Mahindananda Aluthgamage has blamed the Sri Lankan government Podujana Peramuna (SLPP) for the poor marketing of the benefits of organic fertilizers for increasing the agitation of farmers across the country.

He said the Ministry of Health which is battling a coronavirus pandemic – for failing to help promote the sudden switch to organic fertilizers as well as the Ministry of the Environment.

Events

Sri Lanka this week saw an increase in protests in rural farmlands with furious farmers opposing the government’s decision to ban fertilizers and agrochemicals.

Although President Gotabaya Rajapaksa banned chemical fertilizers in April this year, farmers began to protest on a large scale this month after the Covid-19 lockdown was eased and production was lower and sicker than the previous years.

Minister Aluthgamage criticized agriculture and other ministries for not “marketing” organic fertilizers.
“When the president announced this in April, we had to prepare the organic fertilizers for the Maha growing season which started on October 15,” Aluthgamage said at a press briefing hosted by the Presidential Media Center on Thursday.

“So we had five months. We only had to prepare organic fertilizers for 1.6 million hectares of land. As a government, we have to admit that we couldn’t market it well. “

Local media showed images of vegetables with stunted growth, distorted production, and smaller fruits in many parts of the country, with farmers citing the reason due to lack of timely application of pesticides and herbicides. as well as chemical fertilizers.

Numerous protests saw the effigy of Minister Aluthgamage with two horns burnt and some farmer groups publicly cursed him for not giving fertilizers and other chemicals on time.

Marketing problem

Aluthgamage blamed his own government for the current situation.

“The Department of Health should do most of the talking with the public. But the health ministry has not said a word so far, ”he said.

“There is an environmental benefit due to this move. Has the Department of the Environment spoken about it? So the biggest mistake was that we couldn’t market it properly. “

The cabinet has already authorized the Secretary of Agriculture to decide on the importation of chemicals such as weedkillers and pesticides.

However, many experts have warned that the problem goes beyond marketing and is a fundamental problem with the lack of evidence-based policy making.

The Sri Lankan Government Physicians Association said that, according to Pliny the Elder, a Roman author, ancient Sri Lankans lived for over 100 years when there were no agrochemicals.

Observers had warned that Pliny’s writings were not a reliable guide to policy an entire nation.

Aluthgamage said farmers in the north and east were already involved in organic farming without any problems, unlike farmers in other parts of the country.

According to sources close to the territory, there is a runoff of chemical fertilizers to the North through traditional circuits which open up every time the country slaps import controls.

The agriculture ministry will issue a circular on how the government will compensate farmers if they experience a drop in yield after using organic fertilizers, Aluthgamage said.

Aluthgamage criticized an organized campaign against the abandonment of chemical fertilizers.

“They are trying to create a perception and completely change that,” he said.

“First, they said there would be no fertilizer. Then they questioned the quality of the fertilizers. Then they asked about compensation and how the government will find the money for it. What we mean is not to have unnecessary fears about it. “(Colombo / October 29/2021)


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