Seed sales plummet with chemical fertiliser ban

  • Local cereal/grain, veg, fruit seeds producers affected

BY Buddhika Samaraweera

Local seed producers have pointed out that the sales of seeds of cereals and grains like paddy and maize, vegetables, and fruits, have fallen sharply following the Government’s decision to ban the import of chemical fertilisers and agrochemicals such as pesticides and herbicides/weedicides.

When contacted by The Morning, Marketing Manager – Seeds of CIC Agribusiness (Pvt.) Ltd., a leading seed supplier in the country, Chirantha Rajapakse said that compared to previous years, there is a significant reduction in the sale of seeds.

He noted that according to their latest data, this year, the sale of seeds for vegetables has dropped by 25% to 75%, maize seeds by 50%, and seed paddy by 25% to 30%, compared to the sales situation in previous years. “Among the seeds for vegetables, the sale of chillie, tomato, eggplant, and cabbage seeds, which are heavily susceptible to certain diseases, have declined by a drastic 75% compared to previous years,” he added.

Rajapakse further added that the sale of seeds has declined in almost all parts of the country. “However, the sale of seeds of crops such as carrots, which are grown in areas like Nuwara Eliya, has not dropped much because such crops have a lower risk of contracting diseases,” he said.

Commenting on the matter, another official from a seed producing company said: “There has been a decline in the sale of seeds over the past few months, especially when it concerns certain crops which contract certain diseases that are difficult to control without the use of pesticides. As a result, it is observed that a significant number of farmers have now abandoned cultivations.”

He also said that 90% of the chillie seeds, 80% of eggplant seeds, and 100% of the seed paddy required for Sri Lankan farmers were produced locally in the recent past. However, according to him, the lack of inputs such as fertilisers and pesticides has the potential to drastically reduce seed production locally.

Meanwhile, when questioned as to whether the seed production process, which enhances the genetic potential of seeds (against pests and diseases, and for the yield and its quality), would be affected since the importation of chemical inputs has been banned, he said that the maximum genetic potential of any seed depends on other external factors such as the management of water, soil fertility, and pests and diseases. Without these factors, enhancing the genetic potential alone will not be enough, he said.

Speaking further, he claimed that the decline in the local sale of seeds meant that farmers were withdrawing from cultivation, which could lead to a number of adverse consequences.

“Even now, even with the use of chemical inputs, we have not been able to reach the potential level of crop production such as in the case of the maize crop. In such a situation, food security can be compromised by the further withdrawal of farmers from farming. At the same time, many job seekers and existing employees in the seed production and agriculture industry are at risk,” he elaborated.

According to the research data, at present, more than 75% of the country’s seed requirement is supplied by private sector producers.

Attempts to contact Agriculture Ministry Secretary Prof. Udith K. Jayasinghe-Mudalige proved futile.

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

However, throughout the past few months, farmers in several areas were seen charging that there is a serious shortage of fertiliser for their cultivations. A number of protests are also being organised by farmers’ organisations and various parties on a daily basis, demanding that the Government provide a solution to the fertiliser shortage issue.