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Agriculture academics seek meeting with President

a year ago

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  • Plan to propose a mutually agreeable compromise
  • Note ‘100% organic impossible in 1-2 seasons’
BY Buddhika Samaraweera A group of academics from the agriculture field, in a letter to Agriculture Ministry Secretary Prof. Udith K. Jayasinghe-Mudalige, has requested the latter to facilitate a meeting with President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, in order to propose a course of action in agriculture that is consistent with the vision of the Government and at the same time, acceptable to farmers. The letter, which is signed by 141 senior professors, professors, senior lecturers, and lecturers from several state universities, and other academics, read that pursuing a goal of converting the country’s agriculture to 100% organic within a season or two is impossible, as evident from the recent happenings and farmers’ revolts demanding for fertiliser and agrochemicals such as pesticides. “We must note that the situation has been aggravated owing to the delays to meet the demand by way of organic and/or synthetic chemical inputs in the requisite quantities.” Further noting that the President’s vision for a toxin-free nation should be appreciated, the academics claimed, however, that his advisors have not only failed to succinctly provide the requisite advice, but also a strategy and a viable action plan at the ground level towards realising a healthy form of agriculture. The letter read: “It is also evident from recent discourses that some of his close advisors are highly biased and ignorant of vital facts relating to our agriculture. At the same time, many senior officers appear to be non-committal and are adopting a ‘save their skin’ attitude, virtually saying yes to everything in order to please the President.” They also stated in the letter that they would like to propose a course of action in agriculture that is consistent with the vision of the Government and at the same time, acceptable to farmers, taking into account experiences of other countries’ achievements in promoting organic farming and the intrinsic potential of organic farming with the related current technologies. A proposal to ban the use and importation of chemical fertiliser and agrochemicals, such as pesticides and herbicides/weedicides, was submitted to the Cabinet of Ministers by President Rajapaksa and the same was granted approval, following which the relevant gazette notification was issued in May 2021. However, throughout the past few days, farmers in several areas were seen charging that there is a serious shortage of fertiliser for their cultivations over the past few months. A number of protests are currently organised by farmers’ organisations and various parties on a daily basis, demanding that the Government provide a solution to the fertiliser shortage issue.

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