Chemical fertiliser price to be regulated but not fixed

  • Agriculture Ministry wary about overpricing
  • Mechanism to regulate prices soon

By Buddhika Samaraweera

The Ministry of Agriculture does not expect to introduce a fixed price for chemical fertilisers and other agrochemicals, including pesticides, fungicides, and herbicides/weedicides, which would be imported by the private sector, but will soon formulate a mechanism to regulate their prices, The Morning learnt.

When contacted by The Morning, Agriculture Ministry Secretary Prof. Udith K. Jayasinghe-Mudalige said that this mechanism would be formulated with the involvement of all relevant institutions.

He added that such regulation would be necessary since suppliers of fertilisers and agrochemicals at the ground level may try to sell them at exorbitant prices in the future to make large profits.

“We do not say that everyone does it, but when it comes to pricing any product or service, ground level suppliers are setting their own prices. Therefore, all relevant institutions including the Agriculture Ministry hope to formulate a programme to avoid such issues,” he said.

However, when asked if there were any plans to impose fixed prices on imported chemical fertilisers and agrochemicals, he said that there would be no fixed prices. However, Prof. Jayasinghe-Mudalige said that it is planned to register all fertiliser and agrochemical outlets islandwide and develop a methodology for selling fertilisers and agrochemicals in a prescription-based system. 

“Currently there are only 1,073 fertiliser and agrochemical outlets registered, out of nearly 3,000 in the country, and we have no way of knowing what is going on in such outlets. Therefore, it is planned to register all these shops and set up a system to record everything sold in them. We hope to implement it in a very short time,” he said

Speaking further, he noted that when importing chemical fertilisers and agrochemicals through the private sector, the relevant tests will be carried out in prescribed procedures, so that no party will be allowed to import substandard products.

A proposal to ban the use and importation of chemical fertiliser, pesticides, and herbicides/weedicides was submitted to the Cabinet of Ministers by President Gotabaya Rajapaksa and the same was granted approval, following which the relevant Gazette notification was issued on 6 May 2021.

However, throughout the past few months, farmers in several areas were seen charging that there is a serious shortage of fertiliser for their cultivations, while a number of protests have also been organised by farmers’ organisations and various parties demanding the Government provide a solution to the fertiliser shortage.

Against this backdrop, the Government decided to revoke Extraordinary Gazette No. 2226/48 of 6 May 2021, which banned the importation of chemical fertilisers and agrochemicals, and to thereby allow the private sector to import the same on 24 November. However, as of last night (28), the relevant gazette was yet to be issued, and therefore the import ban is legally still in effect.