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Looming food crisis shatters Sri Lanka’s 100% organic dream

Sri Lanka has lifted the ban on agro-chemical imports owing to a food shortage, and thus dumps dream of being first fully organic farming nation.

It all began with a dream. The dream of transforming an entire country into the world’s first organic farming nation. However, the dream that Sri Lanka has been nursing for a while has now been shattered.

The disappointment has come as a follow up to a crisis that seemed set to loom large over the nation. With food security at risk, Sri Lanka has abandoned its dream of being the first ever country in the world that has a fully organic farming regime.

The South Asian nation had to abandon its noble quest, and the administration made it official by proclaiming that it would immediately lift an import ban on pesticides and other chemical herbicides. This has come about due to the severe economic crisis as lack of foreign exchange sparked off food shortage, and shortage of crude oil and other essential goods.

The nation’s farming sector has realised that it cannot survive only on organic methods of cultivation. Pesticides and chemicals have thus become imperative, though the noble quest was something Sri Lanka would have loved to pursue.

Restrictions on agrochemicals prove bane for farming sector

Sri Lanka’s main export earner is tea, and the restrictions on chemical fertilisers was proving to be a hassle. And so authorities had withdrawn restrictions on chemical imports last month.

And now, the country’s Ministry of Agriculture has declared that the broader ban stamped on agrochemicals including herbicides and pesticides will be lifted. That means Sri Lanka will resume imports of essential chemicals, so that the farming sector isn’t impacted too much.  The government’s decision has come about as a follow up to measures aimed at putting an end to food crisis.

Earlier, in May, a ban had been brought about on imports of all pesticides and agrochemicals. Soon after the ban, farmers were pushed into trouble as cultivation called for the use of fertilisers and pesticides. As the import ban carried on, many farmlands were abandoned.

It has been reported that over the past week, the food scenario has worsened with shortage of rice, vegetables and essential items quoting almost double their prices than before. There is also a situation where supermarkets are selling essential food items on a ration, giving away only five kilograms per customer. The situation had turned grim across Sri Lanka, thus forcing the government to do a rethink on the fertiliser imports ban.

Noble initiative, but food security vital

The food scenario worsening, farmers had been gearing up to hold protests outside the Sri Lankan Parliament, so that the government would lift the imports ban. The government, however, has gone a step ahead and withdrawn the chemical imports ban.

All said, the nation had a noble initiative. The ban was conceived as a step toward making Sri Lanka fully organic. But then, food security is something no administration can ignore.

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Sanjeev Ramachandran

A journalist with 23 years of experience, Sanjeev has worked with reputed media houses such as Business Standard, The New Indian Express, MSN India, PanAsiaBiz. Sanjeev can be reached at [email protected]
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