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Govt’s decision to ban import of chemical fertiliser was a farce says Harsha

By Aazam Ameen

The gazette published on 06 May which detailed the ban of imports of chemical fertiliser was fundamentally flawed, The Morning learnt.

Speaking exclusively to The Morning on the matter, Samagi Jana Balawegaya MP Dr. Harsha De Silva explained that the gazette contained a mistake where both chemical fertliser and mineral fertiliser were categorised into the same HS code and banned.

“They wanted to bring in nitrogen and other supplements to complement the use of organic fertiliser, but how were they planning on doing so when they had banned both through this gazette notification as they were categorised under the same HS code?” the MP questioned.

Further, De Silva explained that this was never a law to begin with.

“You cannot make a law through a gazette. Under the import control act, a published gazette of this nature must be approved or dismissed before the Parliament within 30 days. This never happened. In fact before this, it must be presented to the Committee on Public Finance, which also never happened. The ban was never legally implemented,” he stated.

De Silva says that when he pointed out the blunder with regard to the HS codes, the government responded by saying it would pull the same out of the order paper and resubmit it. However, De Silva reveals that this too was not done.

With regard to Gazette number 2238/45 of July 2021 where Finance Minister Basil Rajapaksa relaxed regulations on the import of chelated minerals and micronutrients for fertilisation purposes, De Silva says that his move takes the government back to the original scenario.

“Now what they have done is instead of banning chemical and mineral fertiliser, they have removed the same from the banned list and included it in the licensed list. So we are going back to what it originally was,” he remarked.

The SJB MP further questioned this decision on the government’s part, referring to it as a “farce”.

“You make such drastic decisions and then you justify it and millions of people are affected by it, only for you to reverse it for no reason? If the President was right about this ban, why this sudden overnight change? Suddenly all the talk about the negative effects of chemical fertiliser have gone away. Was this an attempt to fool the people?” the MP questioned.

De Silva stated that this is either an indication of a massive blunder on the part of the government, or it shows that the government does not have a proper position on anything.

Earlier on 01 July, De Silva exclusively told The Morning that the fertiliser gazette which sought to ban the imports of chemical fertiliser will soon be reversed. 

“All I can say is that the fertiliser gazette is wrong and they will have to reverse it,” he stated.

When queried further if this will take place in the near future, De Silva stated that announcement will follow soon.

“It just goes to show how careless and how much attention has been paid in terms of conducting analysis before such decisions are made,” he told The Morning earlier.