Organic fertiliser: Government looks to India and Australia

  • All samples will be thoroughly tested: Agriculture DG
  • Says less time in transit favourable; plans shipping sequence
  • Will stop any attempt to bring rejected Chinese fertiliser: Customs

By Skandha Gunasekara

The Department of Agriculture (DOA) has identified several organic fertiliser companies that meet the quality standards for import, with Indian companies being preferred due to logistical benefits, The Sunday Morning learnt.

DOA Director General (DG) Dr. Ajantha De Silva said that several companies had provided samples of organic fertiliser that were favourable for import.

“We don’t want to confine our supply to any specific country. What we want is a nitrogen expansion fertiliser with organic origin. We are open to bringing it down from any country. Some other countries also gave us samples for testing purposes, and they conformed to the required standards – i.e. SLS (Sri Lanka Standards) 1704 and No. 35/1999 of the Plant Protection Ordinance. One such sample was from a company in Australia and two others were from companies in India,” Dr. De Silva stated.

The news came after a sample of organic fertiliser from China was found to have harmful microbes last week, resulting in the cancellation of that order.

Dr. De Silva said that the transportation time would also be taken into account when orders are placed.

“If we are getting it (organic fertiliser) down from India, it would be much better, as the sailing time is less,” he said.

Nevertheless, he assured that priority would be given to the highest quality standards over other factors such as cost.

“First, we will have to determine which one is of the best standard before deciding on the cost matter; cost will have to be decided by the procurement board,” he noted.

According to Dr. De Silva, a minimum of two weeks would be needed for stocks to arrive upon an order being placed.

“During the meeting with the companies, they informed us that they would be able to send the first set of stocks within two weeks of confirming the order. We also need a proper shipping plan,” Dr. De Silva explained.

Contaminated fertilisers will not be imported, as another sample testing would be carried out during the procurement process, he stressed.

“We received data on the samples of their products the companies themselves tested, but during the procurement process, we will conduct another test on the samples at the loading point in order to ensure its quality and that there are no harmful bacteria or microbes,” he explained.

With regard to speculation that the rejected Chinese consignment was turned around while the shipment was at sea, Dr. De Silva said he was unaware of such matters.

“I really don’t know. As part of my duty, I rejected that fertiliser following the test results of the samples coming out positive for harmful bacteria. As far as I know, the order was cancelled,” he opined.

The rejected Chinese order was for a total of 12,500 metric tonnes (MT) of organic fertiliser.

Responding to a question regarding the possible arrival of a rejected organic fertiliser shipment,  Customs Director General Maj. Gen (Retd.) Vijitha Ravipriya told The Sunday Morning that the department was not aware of an inbound shipment.

However, Maj. Gen. Ravipriya stated that Customs closely monitors all ships that call at the port and check their cargo documentation thoroughly, adding that they will stop any attempt to bring in any rejected or illegal fertiliser through the port.

When asked what can be done if the rejected stock arrives, Maj. Gen. Ravipriya said Customs can take legal action and make the importer re-export the rejected stock of fertiliser.