20,000 MT Organic Fertiliser Left China for SL on 22 Sept
By Sulochana Ramiah Mohan
China’s Qingdao Seawin Biotech Group Ltd., which twice failed to pass the organic fertiliser tests conducted by Sri Lanka National Plant Quarantine Services (NPQS), has already dispatched 20,000MT organic fertiliser to Colombo on the ‘Hippo Spirit’, raising the question as to who issued the import licence to the company. The vessel ‘Hippo Spirit’ left for Sri Lanka on 22 September 2021, from China, right after the second organic fertiliser sample sent by Qingdao Seawin Biotech to Sri Lanka for testing, was found highly contaminated.
Ceylon Today reliably learns that the Director General of Department of Agriculture has not issued the permit to the company. The ship is a Panamian flagged vessel and it was anchored in the Port of Singapore and is currently heading towards Sri Lanka through the Strait of Malacca, it is claimed. After the second test report had been released, showing results of contaminated organic fertiliser, the ship had sailed to the Port of Singapore and was anchored there. It is unclear whether the consignment was sent back to China or waiting for arrival at the Colombo Port, perhaps after the third test on the fertiliser. Senior Professor of the Faculty of Agriculture, University of Peradeniya, Buddhi Marambe, also questioned how the cargo was shipped without an import permit granted by the Director General of the Department of Agriculture. It was clear that the DG had not issued a permit for importation.
The controversy surrounding the organic fertiliser sample escalated as the Chinese Embassy in Colombo intervened in a private business deal. The embassy said they found out that these reports and statements has already harmed the reputation of the company in question. The Ministry of Agriculture selected the Qingdao Seawin through a tender process to import organic fertiliser to the value of USD 42.8 million.
However, after they were selected as the best bidder, the company was asked to send samples before importing. They sent it twice but on both occasions the samples were tested positive for harmful bacteria. The Chinese Embassy said that the company has undertaken obligations strictly in accordance with the signed contract. In their production process, the organic fertiliser must be sterilised at 600 oC, thus all harmful microorganisms are killed by the high temperature, which is in line with the standards required in the bidding documents, the contract, the letters of credit as well as the widely accepted international standards for organic fertiliser.
In the process of enforcing the contract, however, the NPQS claimed that the sample received contained harmful bacteria including Erwinia, after only three days of test and analysis, which led to the above-mentioned news reports. It is noted that, according to the International Plant Protection Convention, it will take at least six days to detect Erwinia. However, Ceylon Today spoke to Additional Director of NPQS Dr. Thushara Wickramaarachchi and he said that as per Standard Institute (SLSI) standards 1704 of 2021 the product must be sterilised. “The Chinese company did not check the sterility and sent the test result. E Coli, qualifoam nematode should show zero.
However, Nematode did not point at zero nor the qualifoam. They showed less than 10 which means it’s not zero. We don’t want to take the risk. Zero mean it’s not contaminated and no risks and that was not present,” he added. Sterilisation of fertiliser is accepted globally which means no one can argue on that. Certain tests need two days and some four days based on the level of contaminant. “Time requirements vary,” he said. When questioned about the 30, 000MT chemical fertiliser from Lithuania was not subjected to testing for heavy metals, he said that it does not come under NPQS and it should be checked by the National Fertiliser Secretariat and the Sri Lanka Standard Institute (SLSI).
“We don’t know whether there were verified documents along with the cargo and certainly the NPQS have no say over the chemical fertiliser,” he added. He also added that the Ministry of Agriculture has inadvertently said that the 30,000MT consignment of ‘organic’ potassium fertiliser arrived at the Port when it is a chemical fertiliser. The Agriculture Minister said the consignment of Potassium Chloride was for the Maha season and as soon as it arrived at the Port on 13 October. On the same night it was transported to Anuradhapura, Polonnaruwa, Kurunegala, Puttalam, Trincomalee, and Hambantota Districts without subjecting the fertiliser to laboratory testing.