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Patali claims Rs. 8 b swindled in Indian fertiliser import

  • Minister and State Minister accused of pocketing sum

BY Buddhika Samaraweera

Samagi Jana Balawegaya (SJB) Parliamentarian Patali Champika Ranawaka, representing the party, has alleged that a serious and massive financial fraud has taken place in the process of importing nano nitrogen liquid fertiliser from India.

Speaking to the media on Wednesday (3), Ranawaka alleged that during the purchase of 5,000 litres of nano nitrogen liquid fertiliser, a sum of nearly Rs. 8 billion has been pocketed by a Minister and a State Minister.

Elaborating on the matter, he said that while the actual price of a litre of nano nitrogen liquid fertiliser is only $ 6.41, the price at which a litre of such fertiliser was imported to Sri Lanka, according to the relevant bills, is $ 25. He further accused the said Minister and State Minister of having imposed the said price of $ 25. Accordingly, he alleged: “The total consignment of 50,000 litres imported into the country is worth around $ 387,000. The remaining $ 800,000 has been robbed.”

He also said that the Government could have given one million farming families an allowance of Rs. 8,000 each, using the said amount of Rs. 8,000 million.

Further claiming that the imported nano nitrogen liquid fertiliser would not help farmers cultivating their farmlands, Ranawaka said: “A total of 105 kilograms (kg) of urea is needed to cultivate one hectare (ha). If nano nitrogen fertiliser is used, farmers need at least 1,250 litres of such per ha. Therefore, with the amount the Government has brought in, only 1,440 ha can be cultivated. There are 800,000 ha of cultivation land to be harvested in the Maha season.”

Speaking further, he claimed that the said purchase of nano nitrogen fertiliser had been made by misleading the Cabinet of Ministers, and that it was clearly a serious fraud.

“On 18 October 2021, Agriculture Minister Mahindananda Aluthgamage presented a cabinet paper stating that 1.8 million litres of nano nitrogen liquid fertiliser will be purchased from Indian Farmers Fertiliser Cooperative Ltd. (IFFCO) spending $ 44.2 million. In addition, it was also mentioned that another 325,000 litres will be imported for maize cultivation,” he said. He also said that according to the relevant cabinet paper, the stock of liquid fertiliser should have been purchased by Colombo Commercial Fertilisers Co. Ltd. Claiming that Agriculture Ministry Secretary Prof. Udith K. Jayasinghe-Mudalige had then been empowered to make the purchase on 19 October, he alleged, however, that by that time, 50,000 litres of nano nitrogen fertiliser had been loaded on planes and had arrived in Sri Lanka. At that time, a sum of $ 1.2 million had already been paid to a company called United Farmers Trust Ltd., he further claimed.

He also commented on the stock of organic fertiliser to be imported from China.

He said: “A total of 98,000 metric tonnes (MT) of organic fertiliser is going to be imported for $ 42 million. The first 20,000 MT have arrived by now. The People’s Bank states that since the letter of credit has been issued in a way so as to make payments as soon as the relevant documentation with regard to the transaction is completed, the fertiliser stock will have to be paid for in spite of any harmful substances such as bacteria.” However, the Commercial High Court has temporarily ordered all related payments to be halted.

Emphasising that President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa, and Finance Minister Basil Rajapaksa should be held responsible for such, Ranawaka warned that no public official involved in the said frauds would be able to escape possible consequences in the future by claiming that they had acted upon high-level orders.

The Government imported liquid fertiliser from the IFFCO and from an initial order of 3.1 million litres, 90,000 bottles, were airlifted on 19 October. Another stock of 145,152 litres of nano nitrogen liquid fertiliser arrived in the country yesterday (4).

All attempts to contact Aluthgamage proved futile.