In May 2021 the Sri Lankan government banned the importation of fertilizers and agrochemicals including insecticides and herbicides.
The new regulation lead to widespread concern among Sri Lanka’s farming community, industry associations, practitioners, and agricultural professionals.
Sri Lanka President Gotabhaya Rajapakse claims that by limiting and banning the import of fertilizers and agrochemicals, this will help rein in rising health care costs brought about by overuse of chemicals in agricultural production.
It is expected that Sri Lanka will import $300-$400 million of foreign fertilisers in 2021 given current international prices. Sri Lanka fertiliser subsidy program amounts to 2% of the government’s recurring expenditure. The subsidy can represent upto 80% of the market price for fertiliser.
The government had hoped to expand organic fertilizer production capacity sufficiently to meet current fertilizer user requirements however this has failed to eventuate.
In August 2021 the Sri Lankan government lifted the import ban on most chemical fertilisers over fears of a political fallout and warnings from farmers of food shortages and severe damage to the massive tea industry.
The South Asian nation has been struggling with a cash crunch worsened by the pandemic, with the central bank imposing sweeping import bans since March last year to reduce the outflow of foreign currency.
The ban on chemical fertilisers — widely used in the tea and rice industries — was opposed by farmers who staged protests after reporting failing vegetable crops as existing stocks began to run out in recent weeks.
A member of a presidential committee that studied the transition from chemical to organic fertiliser, Herman Gunaratne, said the sudden shift could have catastrophic consequences, especially for tea.
“We risk losing our international markets for tea,” said Gunaratne.