Once a major exporter of food grains, Sri Lanka is currently reeling from its worst economic crisis. The country is facing a severe shortage of food grains, causing panic among farmers across the country.
The Rajapaksa government decided to ban chemical fertilizers without preparing the farmers, which caused a spike in food prices. The government is now concerned about shortages due to an imbalance between supply and demand.
MP Roshan Ranasinghe recently proposed that a decision be made to distribute organic and chemical fertilizers (50% each) to the farming community.
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In Kesbewa village, on the outskirts of Colombo, farmers sit idle. The stakes are twofold, because on the one hand chemical fertilizers are prohibited and on the other there is an acute shortage of diesel, essential to the agricultural process.
Farmer Gunasiri said he currently has no fertilizer or diesel to carry out work on his farm. But to make ends meet, he works in a shop.
Fields that were once covered with paddy fields every year are now deserted. For more than four decades, farmers in Sri Lanka have been using foreign-made chemical fertilizers and pesticides that help them get better harvests. Citing health problems and shortages of foreign reserves to import chemical fertilizers, the Rajapaksa administration banned the use of chemicals and started organic farming.
Farmers and agricultural experts are now holding the government responsible for the sharp decline in yields and soaring prices of essential food grains.
Cereal prices, including rice, which is a key commodity in Sri Lanka, have soared. The country now imports rice from India, China and Pakistan.
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Subsequently, the prices of other foodstuffs also almost tripled. Fuel shortages are affecting transportation, adding to already soaring inflation.
Farmer Anura said, “The government forced us to go organic all of a sudden and because of that we couldn’t produce anything. Now we have no more money, survival is very difficult here. the black market at very high rates.”
Farmers in Sri Lanka are now turning into laborers due to failed government policies.
In cash crops like rubber and tea, chemical use is at 90%, but a ban imposed in April 2021 has left farmers in the doldrums.
Two million farmers in Sri Lanka have been left in dire straits without any help. National rice production would have been reduced by more than 20%. Declining tea production could cost the country up to $425 million.
Although the government has decided to pay compensation of 200 million dollars for the failure of an organic agricultural campaign to 2 million rice farmers, it is too late.
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