Farmers on hunger strike demanding chemical fertiliser

By Buddhika Samaraweera

Farmers belonging to 41 farmers’ organisations in the Elahera area in Polonnaruwa commenced a continuous hunger strike yesterday (24), demanding the immediate supply of chemical fertilisers, pesticides, and herbicides required for the Maha cultivating season.

The farmers also held a protest and then commenced the hunger strike near Bakamuna town on the Mahiyanganaya-Dambulla main road.

Speaking to the media, the farmers said that despite repeated requests to provide fertiliser for their crops, the Government has not responded favourably. They pointed out that the maize cultivations being carried out in the area have completely been destroyed due to the lack of fertiliser, and if the chemical fertilisers are not provided, that paddy cultivations will also be destroyed.

Meanwhile, a group of tea smallholders engaged in a protest in the Thawalama area in Galle yesterday, alleging that the tea harvest has declined due to the lack of chemical fertilisers.

In addition, the Karandeniya Cinnamon and Minor Export Crop Growers’ Association alleged that cinnamon cultivations have been severely damaged due to the lack of chemical fertilisers. The Association Chairman Dharshana Lakruwan told the media that the yield and quality of the cinnamon plantations had dropped drastically. “Therefore, the Government should immediately intervene and formulate a programme to provide chemical fertilisers to farmers in enough stocks,” he added.

Furthermore, addressing a media briefing held last Saturday (23), the Leader of the Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP) Anura Kumara Dissanayake stated that great damage has been done to the agriculture sector through the decisions taken by the current President. He also said that it would have a huge impact on the farmers and food security in the country too. “On 28 April, the Cabinet decided to suspend chemical fertiliser imports. Despite issuing a gazette notification on 6 May in that regard, this decision was taken without any consideration of the possible adverse impact,” he said.

A proposal to ban the use and importation of chemical fertiliser, pesticides, and weedicides was submitted to the Cabinet by President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, and the same was granted approval, following which the relevant gazette notification was issued in 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. A number of protests have also been organised by farmers’ organisations and various parties demanding the Government to provide a solution to the fertiliser shortage.

However, Agriculture Minister Mahindananda Aluthgamage was seen claiming that steps would be taken to provide organic fertiliser for cultivation without any shortage, and that compensation would be paid to farmers in case of any damage to their crops due to the use of organic fertiliser.