Towards green agri practices | Sunday Observer

Towards green agri practices

24 October, 2021

The Government took steps to import liquid nitrogen enriched with nitrogen nutrients to provide the world’s most recognised eco-friendly fertiliser to the farmers, the President told agrarian officials at a virtual meeting last week.

He said leaves can directly absorb nitrogen compounds from the liquid fertiliser produced using nanotechnology. The President added that the Government will provide liquid nitrogen to all farmers in the future.

The meeting was held to discuss the challenges faced when implementing the Government’s program to introduce organic farming, islandwide. Farmer representatives led by political party affiliated unions are currently staging countrywide protests against the go-green move, demanding chemical fertiliser for the upcoming Maha season.

The Agrarian Service Officers also requested the President to expand the facilities for testing the quality and standard of organic fertilisers produced by farmers since available facilities are inadequate.

The President said the desired objectives of this program could be achieved by resolving difficulties faced by farmers without delay. “It is important to meet farmers and create awareness among them with accurate facts,” he told the agrarian officials.

President Rajapaksa said: “The main objective of the Government is to create an environment where farmers can earn a better income while protecting the environment and public health.” The President said the goal of green agriculture is to benefit farmers and the people not just for one or two seasons, but to provide benefits for generations.

The President said it is the responsibility of officials to identify key issues faced by farmers and to make the Government aware of them so that expert assistance can be sought to resolve them.

He told the officials that he would never ask anyone to commit any wrong-doing and to have faith in the Government that this project will be a success.


Agriculture Minister Mahindananda Aluthgamage responding to a question by the Opposition Leader in Parliament on Thursday said: “Today, a kilo of paddy is sold at Rs.70-90. During your time, it was priced at Rs. 25- Rs.30. The farmers are happy that they got a good price for their produce. They are still in the process of selling their paddy. Only 35 percent have been sold at present, 65 percent stocks are still with the farmers. “About the fertiliser, we have brought down phosphorous extracted from the soil. So I say it is organic since it has not been processed.

The Opposition MPs must be enlightened on this. The Opposition Leader said a university lecturer warned against the use of nano liquid fertiliser. Nano technology is the most modern technology in the world. We need only a very small quantity of fertiliser to get the same benefits provided by ordinary fertilisers. By October 30, we will bring down the required quantities of the fertiliser for the coming season.

Before we took this decision to import nano fertiliser, we spoke to the farmers and I travelled all over the country. “The farmers said to give them the Potassium, Nitrogen and Phosphorus needed for their cultivations. Moreover, for the first time in history, we are testing the soil in farmlands now. This is to match the fertiliser with the type of soil we have. During the Yala season, 1.3 million hectares were cultivated. “This green farming program was initiated with good intentions. We want to give the people toxins-free food, we want to protect farmers’ kidneys, protect the environment for our children. There will be small issues. We can overcome those with the help of all.”


Minister Lasantha Alagiyawanna speaking in Parliament of the issues faced by farmers and the small and medium scale mill owners said: “This was the first time the Emergency Regulations were used in the name of the people. In the past, Emergency Regulations were used to control terrorism.”

He said: “The President did it to protect the consumers. If not, the price of rice, paddy and sugar would have sky rocketed. We have proof. I must reiterate that the prices have stabilised at present due to the positive actions of the Consumer Affairs Authority. “As far as small and medium scale mill owners are concerned, we are of the opinion that this sector should be protected. Only about 35 percent of paddy production is handled by large scale mill owners. The balance 65 percent is handled by small and medium scale owners. There are 800, 850 such mills. “The current issues faced by the small and medium scale mill owners date back to 2017 and 2018.

“We met their representatives. About 400 mill owners have defaulted loan repayments due to losses suffered in the previous years. They have obtained loans in 2017 and 2018 amounting to Rs.8.9 billion. The last Government imported rice and they suffered losses.

“We are currently in the process of formulating a relief package to strengthen these small and medium scale mill owners. They need to repay Rs.300 million as default fines and another Rs.1 billion as the loan component. These are spread out in 32 banks and financial institutions. In 2020 January, through an Extraordinary Gazette notification, monetary relief was announced for them and this year we have already released the relief package.

“Since the Government did not import rice in 2020, they managed to make some profits last year, and they said it was a consolation. The Government has taken maximum measures to help them out and in future also we will look into their grievances.

“The Cabinet took a decision to set up five high tech rice mills island wide. One of the objectives is to provide necessary technology for small and medium scale mill owners to maintain standard in their produce and compete with the large scale mill owners.

These Cooperative-managed mills will offer services such as drying paddy, sifting and segregation of rice .”


Opposition Leader Sajith Premadasa speaking in Parliament said: “Today there is a major crisis, the farmers have taken to the streets. They are expressing in clear terms their hunger and frustration. Take action immediately to resolve these issues. He said: “Not only the consumer but the small and medium scale rice mill owners have been made to suffer, due to the shortsighted solutions brought in by the Government to control rice prices in the market.

“There are about 850 such rice mills island wide, which have generated 25,0000 direct employments. Nearly 65 percent of the country’s rice production is handled by these mills.

To control fluctuations in the market due to Covid-19 and to ensure food security, this segment of mill owners contribute immensely. The Government should help them by providing necessary incentives to continue their production given that they have also been hit by the current crisis. But instead, there are media carnivals of raids at warehouses to take over rice stocks and a marathon of circulars issued to control the price and brand these businesses as bandits. Their rice seized under emergency regulations were given at a very low price. “The dire financial situation in which they have been placed, resulted in them not in a position to buy paddy during the next Maha season.

In addition, the abrupt fertiliser ban will be a factor to a reduced harvest in the future. The Government is importing nano liquid nitrogen but the agricultural experts warn against their use. The agricultural and chemistry experts have aired concerns about the nano fertiliser brought down from Gujarat.

Prof. Saman Dharmakeerthi of Peradeniya University cautions that there is little research conducted on these nano fertiliser and the impact of them to our environment here is not known. Further, the Government has set up five high tech rice mills to help their kith and kin to invade this sector, replacing the traditional traders.”

Since this is a national issue, I pose the following questions to the Government,

1. Does the Government acknowledge that they failed to control the price of rice?

2. Does the Government accept that small and medium scale rice mill owners need to be protected?

3. What are the short term and long term relief measures for medium and small scale mill owners who are facing issues with repaying their loans and leasing?

4. Have you estimated the expected proportion of the loss in harvest due to the non-availability of chemical fertilisers? What are the steps envisaged to meet the loss suffered by farmers and the mill owners?

5. If the Cabinet has decided to set up large scale rice mills in Kurunegala, Anuradhapura, Batticaloa, Hambantota and Ampara districts, and is it because the small and medium scale mills are not sufficient to meet the demand? Does the Government realise that this is a step towards creating an oligopoly in the rice market?