Severe rice shortage looms, farmers warn 

  • Demand 50% chemical fertiliser be provided 

BY Buddhika Samaraweera

Farmers’ organisations have warned that there would be a severe rice shortage by next year if they do not receive even 50% of the amount of fertiliser required for cultivations, in the form of chemical fertiliser. 

Even though the Government has decided to import specialised chemical fertilisers for vegetable cultivation, Agriculture Minister Mahindananda Aluthgamage on Monday (22) informed Parliament that such fertilisers would not be imported for paddy cultivation. 

Commenting on the Government’s decision to not allow the import of chemical fertilisers for paddy, National United Farmers’ Association (NUFA) General Secretary Nihal Wanniarachchi told The Morning that if at least 50% of chemical fertilisers are not provided to farmers along with organic fertilisers, the only option they have is to abandon the cultivations.

“Until now, nothing the Government said about the fertiliser issue has been implemented properly, so farmers now don’t believe anything the Government says about this issue from time to time. However, what we understand is that there will definitely be a severe rice shortage by next year,” he said.

He further said that nearly 50% of the paddy fields in the Rajanganaya area where he resides have been left uncultivated due to the non-provision of fertilisers to farmers. Wanniarachchi also said that they have not received any subsidy for organic fertiliser either.

President Gotabaya Rajapaksa had, on Monday, instructed Agriculture Director General Dr. Ajantha de Silva to take necessary steps to import specialised chemical fertilisers and pesticides required for vegetable cultivation, in limited quantities, for a limited period, owing to the lack of organic and liquid fertilisers for the same, and the prevailing rains.

However, Aluthgamage, responding to a question in Parliament on Monday as to whether chemical fertiliser will now be imported or not, stated that the President has given permission to import specialised fertilisers and pesticides for vegetable cultivation in view of the prevailing rains. However, he said that there would be no import of chemical fertilisers for paddy cultivation.

A proposal to ban the use and importation of chemical fertiliser, 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.

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