OPA slams Govt’s non- scientific policy on chemical fertiliser

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The Government’s sudden implementation of an impractical and non-scientific policy on banning chemical fertiliser and pesticides has now resulted in irreversible damage to food security and the economy of the country, the Organisation of Professional Associations of Sri Lanka (OPA) said on Friday.

Therefore, the Land and Agriculture Standing Committee of the OPA, in consultation with Agricultural experts, decided to submit short-term recommendations to the GoSL for urgent attention and immediate implementation.

Addressing a special press conference, OPA President  Dulitha Perera said that this sudden decision was taken ignoring professional advice made in the OPA proposals submitted to the President on 02-07-2021 and by many other professionals. It is reported that crop yields, especially that of paddy, has reduced by over 40 % leading to the present crisis of shortages and price hikes to unaffordable levels.

“This has compelled the Government of Sri Lanka to import essential food items including rice, where the quality is not assured. Further, the ill-fated decision taken in April 2021, has also reduced the agriculture export earnings, especially affecting the tea industry, leading to a foreign exchange crisis. Shortages of the raw material (e.g. forages) for the animal feed industry have drastically affected the cost of production of the animal industry leading to dramatic price hikes” he said.

 Thus, to arrest further aggravation of the above situation, the OPA proposes the following immediate actions :

1.   Immediate priority : Provide the required inorganic fertiliser and promote use of organic matter urgently :

a.   Urea, Phosphatic fertiliser and Muriate of Potash at recommended levels for all crops, including fodder

b.   Specialty fertiliser for hi-tech agriculture

c.   Provide technical know-how for farmers to use organic matter in a sustainable manner in conjunction with the inorganic fertiliser

d.   The progress of this activity needs monitoring by Agriculture Officers and reported to the Ministry at regular intervals by Agrarian service divisions.

2.   Ensure uninterrupted usage of fuel-driven farm machinery and implements for harvesting and threshing of late cultivators of the Maha season 2021/2022 and land preparation for the Yala season 2022 in the case of paddy and other food crop production, and for transportation of poultry (egg and meat) and dairy (milk) products and farm inputs (feed and veterinary) and introduce profitable marketable crops to the market and new mechanism for low-cost packing to minimise the damage and waste while in transportation.

3.   Supply quality Seeds to the growers, sourced either locally or imported.

4.   Make required pesticides and veterinary drugs available in the market/try for new agents or dealers for pesticides, strictly following quality standards.

5.   Develop a mechanism to promote and commercialise local technologies and innovations with the recommendation of the mandated State institutions through scientific research.

6.   Popularize and expand Good Agriculture Practices (GAP)-certification programme at National level.

7.   Provide credit facilities and ensure easy access as and when required while introducing

      appropriate risk management system in the food system.

8.   Conduct a scientifically-just motivation campaign on production, productivity and efficient input usage with stakeholders supported by all media networks, under the leadership of the Department of Agriculture (DOA), Mahaweli Authority (MASL), Provincial Department of Agriculture (PDOA), Department of Animal Production & Health (DAPH), Provincial Department of Animal production & Health Department of the Agrarian Development (DAD).

 9.  Energise the Agriculture extension system on both crop and animal production sectors in Sri Lanka by bringing in national, provincial, and private sector extension systems under one umbrella for operational work, without any changes made to the provisions granted by the Provincial Council Act of 1987.

10. Develop required standards for locally produced agricultural inputs (especially organic fertiliser) and ensure strict adherence, in consultation with the Sri Lanka Standards Institution.

11. Introduce simple and practical mechanism to reduce the post-harvest losses in vegetables and fruits, through proper planning in conjunction with the cultivation planning.

12. Establish an efficient supply and distribution mechanism with effective monitoring system for all agricultural (both crop and livestock) produces within the food system. Introduce methods to reduce losses & damages during transportation of agricultural products and have sufficient storage facilities.

13. Promote year-round adoption of precision farming at all levels through private-public partnership programmes.

14.         Further strengthen crop and livestock production forecast system and minimise gluts and lean periods throughout the year through the engagement of all stakeholders.

By Ishara Gamage