‘Fertiliser shortage to end soon’ | Sunday Observer

‘Fertiliser shortage to end soon’

14 June, 2020

Farmers who have been waiting for fertiliser for several months to commence cultivation for the Yala season will at last see the light of the day with the assurance from the Government that it will be supplied for all crops soon.

Co-Cabinet spokesman and Minister of Plantation Industries and Export Agriculture, Dr. Ramesh Pathirana said the issue is being sorted out and added that farmers will receive fertiliser for all crops within a couple of weeks.

“We have taken up the matter and it will be solved soon enabling cultivation and an increase of yield during the Yala season,” the Minister said, accusing the former government of failing to pay the bills which the current government had to foot to ensure an uninterrupted supply.

Fertiliser had not reached farmers in time for the season due to a shortage triggered by the absence of imports.

“We made payments up to March and tried to make payments for the total outstanding amount but from there onwards we could not make payments for fertiliser due to the dissolution of parliament,” the minister said.

The total outstanding amount for fertiliser and construction work stood at around Rs. 367 billion.

The shortage of fertiliser had been building since March as the demand had increased during the lockdown period following the promotion drive for cultivation in the country. The supply of fertiliser had been interrupted during the past two months due to the absence of transportation.

Secretary to the Treasury, S.R. Attygalle said all bills to private importing companies had been settled up to April.

“The Treasury has released the money but the shortage has to be looked into by the relevant ministry,” he said.

However, the delay in supplying fertiliser in time is expected to have a major impact on yields in this year’s Yala season.

National Organiser of the JVP-led, All Ceylon Farmers Federation, Namal Karunaratne said the Government was not ready to meet the increasing demand but put the blame on the increase in the extent of land cultivated this Yala season.

“Diverse views were expressed by ministers, while one saying there is no shortage, the other accepting there is. There was no planning to meet the contingency,” Karunaratne said acknowledging that there has been an increase in land cultivated during this year’s Yala season compared to last year but not a major difference as during the Maha season.

He said it is the responsibility of the authorities to have sufficient stocks which would have helped avert the protest by farmers across the country.

Farmers said they have been going from pillar to post in search of fertiliser and have been wasting time hanging around various places to which they have been instructed to come, but return home empty handed.

“We have been left high and dry without the stocks while no one seems to pay attention to our grievances,” a farmer in Dambulla said, urging the authorities to take swift action to prevent farmers abandoning the sector.

Farmers have been blamed for using excessive quantities of fertiliser while the extent of lands cultivated has increased this year. Cultivation is estimated to have increased by around 17,000 hectares this year.

Paddy fertiliser is expected within a month while short term crops within a few days, but big onions and king yam are unlikely to receive fertiliser in time.

The shortage of fertiliser to boost crop yields has come at a time when the country is hell bent on ensuring food security in the country. Agriculture accounts for around eight percent of the country’s GDP.