Agrochemical ban may cause 42% crop loss
By Paneetha Ameresekere
Current cumulative production of rice, vegetable and other field crops (OFC) including maize which was 6,046,768 metric tonnes (MTs) in the 2020/2021 Maha Season may fall sharply by 42 per cent (2,539,643 MTs) to 3,507,125 MT in the coming 2021/2022 Maha Season due to the Government of Sri Lanka (GoSL) ban on chemical fertilizer and related ancillaries such as fungicides and weedicides, Sri Lanka Agripreneurs’ Forum (SLAF) in a recent webinar warned. “In conventional agriculture, 14 per cent of yield loss is due to weeds, 15 per cent of yield loss is due to insect damage and 13 per cent of yield loss is due to fungal damages,” SLAF, in this webinar held on 2 September said.
Therefore, the importance, and the need of activating the proposed, quota-based importation of specialty fertilizers and agrochemicals were discussed to remedy the forecast loss in yield, especially during the upcoming 2021/22 Maha Season and also in the medium term, it said. Nonetheless, according to National Fertilizer Secretariat (NFS) calculations, importers will only be able to cater to 25-30 per cent of the total requirement of specialty fertiliser and agrochemical demand in Sri Lanka by January/February 2022 for the upcoming Maha Season through the quota system, said SLAF.
In hindsight, Sri Lanka should use the current situation as an opportunity to adapt and streamline the usage/importation of agrochemicals in a structured manner as instructed in the integrated pest management (IPM) and integrated plant nutrient management (IPNM) guidelines, SLAF said. The principles of using controlled amounts of synthetic fertilizer by combining with organic manure and only resorting to the use of agrochemicals to control pest/ disease/weed incidents as the last resort itself can be highlighted as a direct reduction of volume-usage of agrochemicals by growers, it said. SLGAP (Good Agricultural Practices certification for Sri Lanka) is one of the best available and feasible platforms to ease the expected behavioural change by the growers across the country due to these bans, SLAF said.
Among the speakers at this event were CropLife Sri Lanka Chairman Ranjith Bandara, Department of Agriculture Agribusiness Development Unit Assistant Director A.S.M. Roshan and Export Development Board Chairman Suresh de Mel. The panellists in the panel discussion that followed were Lanka Fruit & Vegetable Producers, Processors and Exporters Association Chairman Suresh Ellawala and SLAF Executive Committee Member Jayantha Rajapaksha. Over 140 participants from the Sri Lankan agricultural sector participated at this webinar, SLAF further said.