News

Powerful son to import ‘harmful’ fertiliser

  • 99,000 MTs organic worth $ 63 m from China
  • Quality tests done by SLSI, NPQS, SLAEB fail
  • Strap: Govt. green-lights per Chinese lab report 

BY Buddhika Samaraweera 

The son of a powerful senior official of the Government has been awarded a tender to import 99,000 metric tonnes (MTs) of organic fertiliser made in China, which is, according to testing agencies, harmful to soil, plants and humans, while the samples have failed the mandatory tests carried out by local agencies. 

The value of the said stock of fertiliser is approximately $ 63 million. It is reported that the mandatory tests carried out by the Sri Lanka Standards Institution (SLSI), the National Plant Quarantine Service (NPQS) and the Sri Lanka Atomic Energy Board (SLAEB) on its samples have failed. According to the testing agencies, the stock of fertiliser could contain harmful microorganisms, pathogens and even diseases harmful to the soil, plants and humans. 

However, in a backdrop where all organic fertilisers must pass the tests carried out by the aforesaid institutions to be allowed to enter the country, the Government, according to sources, has decided to waive off the relevant requirements and allow the cargo to be cleared based on a test report issued by a Chinese laboratory. 

The sources further claimed that the relevant letters of credit (LCs) with regard to the importation of this fertiliser stock will be encashed by the supplier even before the cargo is unloaded in Colombo. 

Several attempts to contact the Minister of Agriculture Mahindananda Aluthgamage, the Ministry of Agriculture Secretary Prof. Udith K. Jayasinghe-Mudalige, the 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, the 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 Ministry Secretary, M.N. Ranasinghe was not successful. 

On an earlier occasion, when questioned as to whether the stocks of organic fertiliser manufactured locally would be sufficient to fulfill the fertiliser requirement of the country, M. N. Ranasinghe said that if the locally produced organic fertiliser is not sufficient, action would be taken to import organic fertiliser and that several identified organic fertiliser-related products have, as of end August, been ordered.

Meanwhile, the National People’s Power (NPP) Parliamentarian Vijitha Herath recently claimed that there was a plan to import urea mixed with Chinese urban waste under the pretext of importing organic fertiliser required for farmers.

However, in response to the allegations made by Herath, the Government claimed that the former’s allegation is completely false and that there is no such plan at all.

The then Production and Supply of Fertiliser and Regulation of Chemical Fertiliser and Insecticide Use State Minister and incumbent Coast Conservation and Low Lying Lands Development State Minister Mohan Priyadarshana De Silva, in reply to Herath, said that there is no room for any businessman or company to import such urban waste. He also said that President Gotabaya Rajapaksa had held discussions with the Chinese Ambassador and the Indian High Commissioner to Sri Lanka regarding the importation of high quality organic fertiliser.

De Silva further emphasised that companies or businessmen that import fertilisers should do so in accordance with the criteria set down by the Fertiliser Advisory Committee and the SLSI. 

“No businessman or company is able to import fertiliser as they want. A number of agencies, such as the SLSI, are conducting quality inspections on imported fertilisers. Thus, there are no plans to import urban waste,” he noted.

A proposal to ban the use and importation of chemical fertiliser and agrochemicals such as pesticides and herbicides/weedicides was submitted to the Cabinet of Ministers by President Rajapaksa and the same was granted approval, following which the relevant gazette notification was issued in May 2021.

It was later reported that the Promoting the Production and Regulating the Supply of Organic Fertilizer, and Paddy and Grains, Organic Foods, Vegetables, Fruits, Chillies, Onion and Potato Cultivation Promoting, Seed Production and Advanced Technology Agriculture State Ministry has instructed two state-owned companies to purchase and distribute organic fertiliser produced locally by various companies. Speaking to The Morning on an earlier occasion, Ranasinghe said that the Colombo Commercial Fertilisers Ltd. and the Ceylon Fertiliser Company Ltd. have been instructed to purchase the organic fertiliser produced by local companies and to distribute them.

“Local companies are currently manufacturing organic fertiliser according to their capacity. Therefore, we have instructed the two said companies to purchase them following the relevant procurement processes and to distribute them among farmers through the Agrarian Service Department,” he added.

Ranasinghe also said that all organic fertiliser products purchased in this manner should comply with the standards introduced by the SLSI.

“Policy matters are being handled through the State Ministry. In addition, the Fertiliser Secretariat will oversee the process as a regulatory body and the commercial body in this process will be these two companies.”