Unplanned inorganic fertiliser ban, a blow to plantation industry - Planters’ Assn. Chief | Sunday Observer

Unplanned inorganic fertiliser ban, a blow to plantation industry - Planters’ Assn. Chief

20 June, 2021

The unplanned ban on inorganic fertiliser application has dealt a blow to the plantation sector which has gone through one of the worst times in recent history, Planters’ Association of Ceylon Chairman and Director/CEO Elpitiya Plantations PLC, Bhathiya Bulumulla told the Sunday Observer Business last week.

He said the plantation sector went through a very difficult era in the past couple of years due to the decline in production due to extreme weather, the out-break of Covid-19 pandemic, fluctuating net sale averages of Tea and increase of the wages of the plantation workers which impacted the industry drastically. The unplanned ban of inorganic fertiliser at this juncture is another blow to the ailing industry. The tea industry generates approximately Rs. 230 billion revenue annually, and when inorganic fertiliser is banned, there would be decline of 40 percent in production, and as such the revenue loss to the country’s economy would be tangible.

“Urea has 46 percent Nitrogen and compost has about three percent Nitrogen. If we are to apply organic fertiliser, the quantity of organic fertiliser to replace chemical fertiliser will be huge, which is not available in the country.

“It is my understanding that a commercially cultivated large Plantation will not be able to sustain, if organic fertiliser is not introduced systematically over a period of time. Also Sri Lanka would lose 40 percent of the global tea market held by us with the decline in production, and if that market share is lost, it will be lost forever in this globally competitive environment.

“We lost the Japanese tea market too a few years ago due to the ban of chemical weedicide,” the Bulumulla said, adding that many plantations have tried to use organic fertiliser in the past and proved that the crop loss had been over 40%.

“The organic tea market is a niche market, and you cannot oversupply and request for a better price. And hence it is my opinion that use of a blend of organic and inorganic fertiliser is the ideal combination, but that too should be done in a systematic manner.

“Therefore, we foresee a substantial yield loss due to lack of suitable substitutes for chemical fertiliser and pesticides following the unexpected ban of the importation of inorganic fertilisers and agrochemicals. This could severely impact food security, farmers’ income, foreign exchange earnings,” he said.

President Gotabaya Rajapaksa stated last month the import of chemical fertilisers would be banned to make Sri Lankan the first country to eliminate the use of chemical fertilisers. However, farmers have stated that they had not been given adequate time to make the transition which has not left them in the lurch with neither organic or inorganic fertile resulting in a severe threat to food production in the country.

Agri-experts while commending the move said there should have been sufficient time and a grass-root level consultation in making a conclusion which would have yielded better response from the industry.