Farmers complain of fertilizer shortage amidst warnings of food crisis

Farmers complain of fertilizer shortage amidst warnings of food crisis

Farmers complain of fertilizer shortage amidst warnings of food crisis

Written by Staff Writer

15 May, 2020 | 12:51 am

COLOMBO (News1st): Sri Lankan farmers are complaining of a fertilizer shortage as authorities say they are importing stocks, in a situation that poses the threat of a food crisis in the country.

Farmers preparing for the Yala cultivation season which will run until August, are urging the government to at least ensure that fertilizer is made available in the market if it cannot be distributed free of charge.

“Officers in air-conditioned rooms are saying that fertilizer is available at storage facilities. But examine whether there are stocks in the market,” a farmer told News 1st.

The government has permitted farmers to engage in agriculture — which accounts for eight percent of the country’s gross domestic product — despite curfew restrictions imposed to thwart the coronavirus.

Analysts have warned that the non-availability of fertilizer could force farmers to abandon the industry as they have already been impacted with the inability to sell their cultivation due to the island-wide lockdown style curfew.

However, the National Fertilizer Secretariat has blamed farmers for using excessive amounts of fertilizer, amidst an increase in the extent of lands on which farming has been taking place this year.

“Our farmers don’t use the amount of fertilizer recommended by the agriculture ministry,” Mahesh Gammanpila, the Fertilizer Secretariat’s Director told News 1st.

He said that farming is expected to take place across 523,000 hectares of fields this year, and that cultivation has occurred on an additional land extend of 17,000 hectares.

Government officials say that fertilizer would be imported to cover the shortage and that the cabinet of ministers has approved Rs 10 billion to bring down 150,000 metric tonnes of fertilizer.

“We know that there is a shortage of fertilizer in certain areas. We are immediately ordering fertilizer to be brought into the country,” co-cabinet spokesman Ramesh Pathirana told reporters on Thursday.

Meanwhile, a civil activist group has proposed to provide farmers with money to produce natural fertilizer, citing that fertilizer stocks are hidden when the government attempts to sell them at concessionary rates.

“When the distribution of fertilizer is delayed for a couple of weeks, ministers receive millions of rupees in commissions,” Ven. Pahiyangala Ananda Sagara Thero, the chairman of the Surakimu Sri Lanka Organization said.

President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, during his presidential election campaign last year, had pledged to provide free fertilizer to all farmers in the South Asian island nation.

However, farmers, who account for nearly 34 percent of the country’s total workforce, according to the UN Food and Agriculture Organization, have been left helpless due to the fertilizer shortage.

“How can we survive during the coming months? The government and the relevant authorities should intervene and provide us with fertilizer,” another farmer laments.

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