Govt should be able to import fertiliser – Karunarathne

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By Aloka Kasturiarachchi and Paneetha Ameresekere

Before giving fertiliser subsidies as promised in the PM’s address on Monday (11), the Government should be able to import fertiliser, National Organiser of the All Ceylon Farmers’ Federation, Namal Karunarathne said.

Therefore, the PM’s pledge to provide a ‘fertiliser subsidy’ to farmers is a Media stunt to detract people’s protests against the Government, he added. 

“Farmers do not have fertiliser to manage the Yala season. The Government has to provide the fertiliser needed before giving them a fertiliser subsidy. They are unable to provide fertiliser due to the dollar crisis,” he said.

“When the Government is unable to provide fuel, gas, essential food and medicine, how are they going to import fertiliser?,” he queried.  

He said farmers are unable to operate equipment for want of diesel. “Thus, the harvest this Yala season will be lower than last year’s Maha season,” he stressed.  

“As people do not respect the President at this juncture, they are using the Prime Minister as a pawn,” he said.

PM Rajapaksa was referring to the chemical fertiliser subsidy scheme which has been banned since April 2021. Prior to the ban, according to the Agriculture Ministry, Rs 65 billion had been allocated as the chemical fertiliser subsidy to farmers in 2021.

According to latest Central Bank data, the Government’s total external (foreign) agriculture and plantation debt stock was Rs 84.53 billion in 2019. Prior to the fertiliser ban, GoSL’s fertiliser subsidy extended to both the plantation and agriculture sectors.

However, the Finance Ministry on Tuesday (12) announced that it will be suspending all foreign debt servicing commitments due to the present foreign currency crisis besetting the economy.

That means no offshore commercial seller of goods and services to Sri Lanka, be it chemical fertiliser, food, medicines, gas or fuel, is likely to give these goods to the GoSL on credit, unless payment is made by the GoSL in hard cash, the experts said. 

“The exception is if these purchases are made on a government-to-government basis, where the exporter government of these goods and services will export these items to Sri Lanka on credit on humanitarian grounds.”

There are two State-owned entities that import chemical fertiliser. 

They are Colombo Commercial Fertlisers Ltd., which according to the Agriculture Ministry is responsible for importing 50 per cent of all chemical fertiliser, and the other is Ceylon Fertilizer Company Ltd.