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Only NPQS can approve fertiliser imports: Agriculture Graduates Association

  • Agriculture grads contradict Shasheendra on Chinese fertiliser testing

BY Pamodi Waravita

The Agriculture Graduates Association of the Sri Lanka Agriculture Service said yesterday (3) that the ultimate approval for any fertiliser that is imported into Sri Lanka must come from the National Plant Quarantine Service (NPQS) under the Agriculture Department, despite claims by politicians that third parties will be used for the testing of samples of new imports of organic fertiliser.

“The NPQS has to give the final approval for any fertiliser or crop samples that enter the country. This power is given through the Plant Protection Act, No. 35 of 1999. Despite claims by politicians that third parties can test and approve a new stock of fertiliser to be brought into the country, it is the NPQS that has the final say in the matter,” Agriculture Graduates’ Association of the Sri Lanka Agriculture Service Secretary D.R. Kanchana told The Morning yesterday.

However, Promoting the Production and Regulating the Supply of Organic Fertiliser, and Paddy and Grains, Organic Foods, Vegetables, Fruits, Chillies, Onion and Potato Cultivation Promoting, Seed Production, and Advanced Technology Agriculture State Minister Shasheendra Rajapaksa told The Morning on Tuesday (2) that “a third party will be needed” for the testing of the new samples of organic fertiliser that is due to be imported from a Chinese manufacturer. Rajapaksa made these comments when speaking to The Morning about the controversial stock of Chinese fertiliser that was recently denied entry into Sri Lanka.

“People have mixed everything up. Testing will not be done for the third time on the existing fertiliser samples. We have clearly informed the Chinese manufacturer that the fertiliser needs to be made as per our specifications. This means that no organisms or microbes can be present in the fertiliser. Also, we said that we would test new samples once the fertiliser is custom made to our specifications. This rejected fertiliser will not be accepted for any reason. It is harmful and contains harmful microbes which can cause serious side effects when added to crops and consumed. We have explained this to the manufacturer as well,” noted Rajapaksa.

Additionally, Rajapaksa revealed that the laboratories in Sri Lanka are also not internationally recognised, and thus, a third party would be ideal when the new samples are brought in for testing. “A third party will be needed when the new fertilisers that have been specially made as per our requirements do come in. A private laboratory accredited by the Sri Lanka Standards Institute (SLSI) will be called in and they will do the relevant testing,” concluded Rajapaksa.

However, Kanchana said that the NPQS follows the guidelines put forth by the International Plant Protection Convention (IPPC), to which Sri Lanka and 183 other countries are contracting parties. According to the IPPC official website, China is also a contracting party to the IPPC, a Treaty overseen by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (UNFAO).

Following tests carried out by local testing agencies, including the NPQS, on the second set of samples of organic fertiliser made in China that have confirmed the presence of harmful bacteria in the said samples, the Agriculture Ministry recently decided not to import organic fertiliser from the said company.

However, following requests from China, the Government earlier agreed to send the organic fertiliser samples from China-based Qingdao Seawin Biotech Group Co. Ltd., which have been found to contain harmful bacteria on two previous occasions, to a third party to retest their quality. Rajapaksa told the media on 26 October that China had refused to accept the results of the tests conducted so far and that the Government had therefore agreed to refer these fertiliser samples to a third party laboratory in order to ascertain their quality.

The ship carrying the stock of fertiliser – Hippo Spirit – was reported to be in Sri Lankan waters this week as well. Agriculture Ministry Secretary Prof. Udith K. Jayasinghe-Mudalige told The Morning on Tuesday that if the Hippo Spirit vessel is docked in Sri Lanka, after having been denied entry into the ports, and in turn attempts to unload its consignment of Chinese organic fertiliser, it could be considered an act of terrorism.