News

Pesticides Registrar sacked for lifting agrochemicals ban

  • Mahindananda says action contrary to green agri policy
  • Agri grads urge Prez to reverse sacking

BY Buddhika Samaraweera

Agriculture Minister Mahindananda Aluthgamage has removed the Registrar of Pesticides Dr. J.A. Sumith, who issued an Extraordinary Gazette Notification on Monday (22) lifting the ban on five types of agrochemicals including the herbicide glyphosate.

Dr. Sumith had issued an Extraordinary Gazette Notification on 22 November, revoking the Extraordinary Gazette No. 1894/4 of 22 December 2014 which banned the sale of five agrochemicals including glyphosate.

Accordingly, speaking in Parliament yesterday (23), Aluthgamage said that it was completely illegal for the Pesticides Registrar to lift the ban on these agrochemicals despite the Government’s decision to establish a green agricultural policy. He added that he had therefore instructed the relevant officials to remove Dr. Sumith from office and to re-impose the ban on agrochemicals, including glyphosate, on Monday itself.

“A disciplinary inquiry is being conducted against this person (Dr. Sumith) for importing agrochemicals as required by a certain company. Earlier, in submitting a Cabinet paper on importing agrochemicals, he had sent proposals in favour of one company. The second time too, he had sent proposals in that manner,” he claimed.

Aluthgamage further claimed that chemical fertiliser companies and importers have been working closely with officials of the Agriculture Ministry and the Agriculture Department in the past. He noted that this was the biggest challenge for the Agriculture Ministry in implementing the Government’s decision towards a green agriculture policy.

Dr. Sumith was not available for comment despite multiple attempts made by The Morning.

Former Pesticides Registrar Dr. G.A.W. Wijesekara, through the Extraordinary Gazette No. 1894/4 of 22 December 2014, prohibited the use, offer for sale, or sale of five agrochemicals including glyphosate, the herbicide propanil, the insecticide carbaryl, and the pesticides chlorpyrifos and carbofuran, particularly within the Anuradhapura, Polonnaruwa, Kurunegala, and Monaragala Districts, and within the Divisional Secretariat Divisions of Mahiyanganaya, Rideemaliyadda, and Kandaketiya in the Badulla District.

Meanwhile, the Agriculture Graduates’ Association of the Sri Lanka Agriculture Service (AGASLAS) has alleged that the decision taken by Aluthgamage to remove Dr. Sumith from office has been taken without looking into details. The AGASLAS has therefore urged the President and the other authorities to rectify the said decision immediately.

A media release issued by the AGASLAS further noted that the Extraordinary Gazette Notification No. 1999/33 dated 28 December 2016 had subsequently revoked all licences issued for agrochemicals containing active chemicals including carbaryl, chlorpyrifos, and carbofuran. “Therefore, the Extraordinary Gazette Notification No. 1999/33 is still in force and there is no change in the ban on the import of the said agrochemicals,” it added.

It was further stated that glyphosate has been classified as a restricted herbicide by the Extraordinary Gazette Notification No. 2088/57 dated 13 September 2018. They also pointed out that the Extraordinary Gazette Notification No. 2019/13 dated 2 October 2018 restricts its use to tea and rubber plantations only.

Pointing out that the implementation of the Extraordinary Gazette Notification No. 2019/13 dated 2 October 2018 while the Extraordinary Gazette Notification No. 1894/4 dated 22 December 2014 is in force is a technical issue, the AGASLAS has claimed that although it is necessary to use glyphosate for cultivation, it is not possible to do so due to the Extraordinary Gazette Notification No. 1894/4 dated 22 December 2014.

“Due to that, the Extraordinary Gazette Notification No. 1999/33 dated 28 December 2016 has been cancelled and it appears that although the new Extraordinary Gazette Notification No. 2255/5 is a gazette notification to be issued in the year 2018, it has been printed on 22 November 2021 due to delays in governmental processes,” it added.