ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka will supply fertilizer at 10,000 rupees per 50 kg bag for paddy cultivation, 25 percent of the original cost of 40,000 rupees as the crisis hit nation is trying to boost its rice production amid a looming food shortage after an ill-sighter fertilizer policy.

Sri Lanka’s rice production has dropped sharply since President Gotabaya Rajapaksa banned chemical fertilizers in April last year. Agriculture Minister Mahinda Amaraweera said the rice production has fallen up to 40 percent in the last ‘Maha’ cultivation season ended in February this year.

“Paddy farmers will be given fertilizer for 10,000 rupees and in the global market is selling it for 40,000 rupees,” Amaraweera, also a co-cabinet spokesman told a weekly cabinet media briefing on Tuesday (05).

He also said corn cultivators and other crop producers will be also receiving the fertilizer at the same price in the future.

Before the ban, the government had been providing a 50 kg fertilizer bag at 350 rupees. However, increased global prices and nearly 80% depreciation in the rupee currency against the US dollar have increased the import price of fertilizer.

The lack of fertilizer application has forced the government to import rice from India and Myanmar. The shortage and looming food crisis have increased the prices to more than doubled. Rice is the staple food in the island nation.

Rajapaksa stubbornly maintained the fertilizer ban policy despite many protests by farmers. He was forced to cancel the policy after the production of rice and vegetables started to fall in November. However, the government could not supply the required fertilizer to farmers due to dollar shortage.

Sri Lanka brought an organic fertilizer shipment from China, however it was not approved Sri Lankan authorities because the supply did not meet the required standards.

Later, the government imported nitrogen fertilizer from India, but farmers rejected it because of bad odour.

Amaraweera said Sri Lanka will receive a shipment of 40,000 MT of chemical fertilizer on July 9, from Oman under the Indian Credit Line, this will be distributed to farmers. Another 25,000 MT is expected to be reach the country in the near future.

The fertilizer will be used in the next Maha cultivation season starting in November this year, Amaraweera said adding that Sri Lanka will reach self-sufficiency and will no longer have to import rice.

“We want the next Maha season to be successful and for all this to be carried out we have taken the relevant measures,” the Agriculture Minister said.

He also said the paddy has been cultivated in 475,000 hectare land across the country in the on going Yala cultivation season, much higher than the expected 275,000 hectare. (Colombo/July 05/2022)