By R.P. Gunawardane –
In my previous article in the Colombo Telegraph, I dealt with the “organic” potassium chloride imported by the Ministry of Agriculture. It is nothing other than the normal potassium chloride (KCl) in the mineral form which is used as a chemical potassium fertilizer. The word “organic” has been inserted to deceive general public and farmers. But this attempt was not successful because general public in this country is more educated than the rulers. It has also been reported a few days after the import of KCl that organic Nano liquid nitrogen fertilizer will be imported to Sri Lanka immediately and it will be air lifted from India soon.
By the time this article is written this consignment has already arrived in Sri Lanka after spending a colossal amount of foreign exchange for air freight from India to Sri Lanka. This nitrogen fertilizer material is nothing new but it is the very same Urea in nano form (very small particles) and it is also called nano urea in India. Urea is extensively used in Sri Lanka and most of the other countries for a long period of time as a nitrogen fertilizer. What is air lifted is a liquid nitrogen fertilizer containing the same chemical compound urea in nano form in aqueous solution. Thus, the bulk is large because it is in solution.
No doubt this form of N-fertilizer is considered to be a very effective nitrogen fertilizer because urea is available in nano form (very small nano level particles) that can easily be absorbed by the plants. In fact, nano-fertilizers release plant nutrients in a controlled manner contributing to higher nutrient use efficiency.
Since the chemical composition is the same as commonly used urea this material is not an organic fertilizer. Therefore, it is not correct for the authorities to describe this material as an organic fertilizer and mislead the people.
This nano urea material has to be sprayed to the field/ plants in the liquid form. Therefore, excessive leaching may be possible particularly in the rice fields. As such, this possibility of excessive leaching may lead to loss of nitrogen. This certainly will be an issue to the farmers although its efficiency as a N-fertilizer is quite good.
As it stands now the chemical fertilizer ban is unofficially lifted by the government and potassium and nitrogen fertilizers are already imported to Sri Lanka for distribution. Although very late this is a welcome move for this country. At the moment only chemical fertilizer remains to be imported is TSP (triple superphosphate). Since we have a rock phosphate deposit at Eppawela, it is possible to make use of this material as a P-fertilizer to a certain extent especially for long-term crops. Thus, only a limited amount of TSP may be imported immediately to satisfy our requirement for this period. This way it may be possible for the government to avoid or at least minimize the damage, uncertainty and disaster due to wrong policy and unilateral decisions taken by the authorities without proper consultation.
As a long-term solution to phosphorus fertilizers, it is urgently necessary to develop our valuable phosphate deposit at Eppawela in the Anuradhapura district to manufacture SSP (single superphosphate) or TSP (triple superphosphate) locally. All previous governments have ignored or postponed this development in spite of many proposals presented during the last several decades. Recently there was a detailed proposal to manufacture single superphosphate (SSP) locally from Eppawela phosphate using a minimum capital cost. This process should be further studied by a committee of experts as early as possible to find out whether this manufacturing process is feasible to establish a plant in Sri Lanka to produce SSP locally.
Failure in Decision Making Process
This organic fertilizer episode is a result of a non-scientific and a defective decision-making process in the government. Unfortunately, there were many such instances during tenure of the present government. At least this time the government is trying to avoid the disaster at the last moment by reversing the decision to ban all inorganic fertilizers.
Secretary to the Ministry of Agriculture in his recent interview to a newspaper has stated that the chemical fertilizer ban was enforced because of a wrong advice given to the government. He has basically blamed the advisors for this decision. This is a sad situation as the principal administrative officer of the Ministry of Agriculture to blame the advisors for the wrong decision the government has taken. It is not the advisors but it is the decision makers who are totally responsible.
The decision makers particularly at the cabinet level and the Ministry level are completely responsible for this decision. In fact, for the Ministry of Agriculture it is the Secretary of the Ministry as the principal administrative officer and the Minister as the cabinet member responsible for the subject of Agriculture are totally responsible for this disastrous decision leading to chaos and impending food shortage and economic disaster.
over the last two years during the present administration, many such decisions announced by the government were either not implemented, reversed or revoked by the same cabinet leading to public distrust and chaos. This kind of disorder has not been observed to the same extent during any previous government.
Some examples of such cabinet decisions are, setting up of 10 new national universities announced during the first few cabinet meetings of the new government, ban on slaughter of cattle and closing beef stalls, do away with the use of Z score method in university admission process, maximum retail price of different varieties of rice, prize controls of other consumer items including milk powder, cooking gas etc. and the list goes on and on, perhaps many more to come. What has happened to these cabinet decisions? None of these so-called decisions are implemented while some others are reversed.
This has in fact resulted in displeasure and distrust within the government itself and even at the cabinet ranks. It has been reported recently in newspapers that some senior and prominent ministers in the cabinet have openly criticized the way some cabinet proposals are rushed through the cabinet without allowing extensive discussion and some vital decisions taken by the authorities outside the cabinet of ministers.
GATAM / October 21, 2021
Hungry people will take to the streets and arms.
Blabla / October 21, 2021
“Hungry people will take to the streets and arms.”
So now you are talking. This is what the Tamils did after the 1970s, when they got shut out. Denied of their livelihood. They too are also ‘people’.
old codger / October 21, 2021
“Secretary to the Ministry of Agriculture in his recent interview to a newspaper has stated that the chemical fertilizer ban was enforced because of a wrong advice given to the government. “
I believe one of the prime “advisors” was the opinionated Ratana Hamuduruwo. This charlatan single-handedly brought the tea industry to its knees during the last government, by demanding a ban on Glyphosate. Finally, sense prevailed , but he left the government. If the present regime had any sense, they would have learned from history and kept this fake expert at arm’s length. I wonder why those at the top ignore real scientists, but listen to fakes like Ratana, Peni Dhammika, and Eliyantha White?
MyView / October 21, 2021
Dear Dr RP.
To me it appears that you have touched very correctly on the main issue as relative to the paddy sector. What about weedicides and pesticides which are together an integral component for success in all agricultural pursuits. In fruit cultivation – we saw cultivators showing 250gm pineapples where they had 1.25 – 1.5Kg. and vegetable cultivators with their woes for lack of inputs. Now when the output of Tea has hit the bottom, they are allowing Amm Sulph. inorganic fertilizer imports! So the real damage is more widespread than what we have seen and effects all sectors.
Thiru / October 21, 2021
Now that organic fertilizers are used in Sri Lanka, import of inorganic ones banned, but organic potassium chloride and organic nano nitrogen fertilizers are imported, Sri Lanka can claim that all their locally produced food are organic as well!
Mevan / October 21, 2021
The secretary’s statement that he disagrees with the policy of switching to organic from inorganic fertilizer overnight, is ridiculous. He is not an SLAS officer who became secretary but an academic from an Agricultural Faculty who was specially selected for this post. If he cannot see that his views on this matter prevail over those of others with the President, he should honourably resign and return to the University
Simon / October 21, 2021
Mevan: I think you have made a mistake. When the President woke up one morning and said: ” No more chemical fertilizer imports from today”, the Secretary to the Ministry of Agriculture was a “Military Officer” chosen and appointed by the President. The present Secretary was appointed after the departure of that “Military Secretary” by the Minister of Agriculture – Mahindananda Aluthgamage. This is the “Tug a War’ now between the President and the Minister. P.S. I stand for your correction if I am wrong.
Mallaiyuran / October 21, 2021
There has been no true cabinet decision for the last two decades. The Old King became an EP by murdering Kadirgamar and paying bribes to LTTE against Ranil. Government lured into Lemon Puff Veeraya rowdy club. A CJ with a PhD in law was fired by a road rowdy. Wild Darbar became the government administration. They fooled 32 nations and won the war against Tamils. Sheepishly by ending the war with Tamils, they exhausted mottos to win the election. So, the next election manifesto was about abolishing Halal and setting fire for Fashion Bug showrooms. In the meantime, $18B had gone out of the country’s treasury to Royals’ foreign bank accounts. That completely dried out FEx for decades to come. Now the country is borrowing FEx from Royals, and they are lending FEx in Billions to government at 7%. With name of safeguarding the Royal at UN with Veto, China has run over the country’s income and sovereignty. After spending all his wealth in prostitution with Madhavi, Kovalan came back to wife with only the Dhoti wrapped on the waist. In 2012, Old King’s Chingala Coolie Murali played a role in selling a plot in Somawathi Reserve to Dole for Banana Plantation, and then used the local rowdies to chase Dole out of the country, forcing to writing off the investments. Anyway, this comment ends here, but not the Mahavamsa.
Buddhist1 / October 21, 2021
The statement of Mahindananda that this is an Organic fertilizer is similar to Rajapakses calling Sri Lanka “Democratic” while ruling under “Military conditions” and “Subservient Police and Judiciary”!
Plato / October 21, 2021
The following line of Prof; Gunawardena says it all…..
…………This organic fertiliser episode is the result of a non scientific and a defective decision making process of the Government………..
Viyath Maga is now Viyapath Maga.
The issue of setting up 10 new National Universities and doing away with the Z-score method in University admissions is also in the agenda of the Govt?
As a former Chairman of the University Grants Commission [ UGC ] Prof: Gunawardena has already rung the alarm bells.
This too would create more problems than solving problems and the Govt; IS POISED TO MESS THIS UP AS WELL LIKE THE FERTILISER ISSUE
Jayel17 / October 22, 2021
I recently watched a parliamentary debate on You Tube, where infamous Minister of Agriculture saying what they import are organic potassium and not a chemical. Further went onto say that once it is purified it become a chemical and not otherwise. I don’t know from where and from whom he was confidently saying in this AUGUST Assembly as oftenly being called by Opposition leader. This is a disgrace as 90% haven’t been reached O/L. This minister, I presume has no scientific education but trying to deceive not the parliamentarians but the educated audience who are watching over media
Good Sense / October 22, 2021
Politicians across the divide believe in lies and deception for their survival. One in authority has already spoken of “Organic” Potassium Chloride, of course he or she does not describe Nano Liquid Nitrogen as “Organic”. These fellows have indeed broken the record of Joseph Goebbels. Now we find “Emergency” action in haste to remedy the action taken in haste. It is sad to say that this is the form of Governmental decision making for quite some time, say a few decades. What is the myth? Chemical fertilizer is “harmful” and Organic fertilizer is not. So, somebody spun a yarn that only the wise can see resulting the President without a strand of thread as clothing. The reality is that whether chemical or organic or any other product is HARMFUL if it substandard. They all know that anything and everything can be dumped in Sri Lanka and even Xi Jingping land attempted to dump infested Organic Fertilizer here. What we need is a set of public servants who are honest and would call a spade a spade not bending to “Santhosams.”. “Militarization” as a policy for the answer? A Damp Squib! Though some may fit the board.
MyView / October 22, 2021
….What we need is a set of public servants who are honest and would call a spade a spade not bending ……
I always felt that the abolition of the civil service and replaced by the infamous administrative (controlled by politicos) service, broke the fabric of our govt structure. The Civil Service with First Class graduates with permanency of service, was the bulwark of our government service. Now the “service” is with yes sir admin officers ready to give their ……. so they can themselves fatten themselves.
The CCS ‘boys’ advised their “not so educated” Ministers with good ideas within the ‘policy’ but not just harum-scarum nonsense.
Of course, that was in “our” time.
chiv / October 22, 2021
All those empty farting are to get attention of those retards who voted in the first place, to bring back Rajapaksa Mafia. In doing so, over enthusiastic cronies end up screwing the public right royally making it into a tragicomedy.
chiv / October 22, 2021
Are those retards ORGANIC too ??
Lasantha Pethiyagoda / October 22, 2021
The writer is wrong in estimating that the masses will see thru the farces enacted by rulers and their cohorts from time to time. On the contrary, the very large majority of people WILL NOT see these realities, as election results every single time has shown. The con-artists know absolutely well, that they can even talk about rice from the moon and the people will be fooled.
MyView / October 23, 2021
Even the strangest things have happened, let us not lose hope and only despair. May be keep trust in …The smallest worm will turn, being trodden on……
But my only concern is the lack of an effective choice under this system.
Only a full “total default” reset will do.
Simon / October 22, 2021
Do you want to know the real “URGENCY” to import “Nano Liquid Nitrogen Fertilizer? Watch:-
Please note the “Names” mentioned in this “Newly” formed company to import this fertilizer from India.
appuhamy / October 23, 2021
You cannot blame the ministry or agriculture ministry officials for this fiasco. It is the president who ordered this on the advice of Padeniya and Rathana. A case of blind leading the blind. Minister and officials have no say but to follow his orders. These arrogant leaders think they are the smartest asses in Sri Lanka. They are arrogant and no one dares to question. A petition signed by 101 professionals from all agriculture faculties along with DG/ Agriculture, Chairman/NSF simply ended up in the dustbin. He never summoned independent agriculturists for their opinion.
As for making phosphate fertiliser there is a powerful minister who wants to sell this deposit and earn millions. This same person stalled an attempt by a former Chairman of Lanka phosphate (LPL) tried to import the machinery to manufacture single superphosphate. On hearing this this same minister in an earlier Rajapakse government promptly removed him from the post again eyeing to sell the deposit to the private sector and earn a hefty commission. There are two cabinet decisions giving the greenlight to manufacture SSP but unseen hands have prevented this happening. Such is the pathetic state of our country with these corrupt leaders.
SJ / October 24, 2021
What is pathetic is that we fall for fancy names like “organic nano liquid nitrogen”.
The substance is Nano Urea (Liquid).
It is a source of chemically combined nitrogen, which is a nutrient essential to proper growth and development of a plant.
The Nano-Nitrogen fertilizer is recommended to apply as a foliar spray and said to contain 4% Nitrogen.
To call it liquid nitrogen itself is unscientific.
According to FUTA in its recent statement it is not “organic” either:
“…nano-fertilisers are not accepted in organic agriculture in Sri Lanka as indicated in the standard of requirements for organic agriculture (SLS1324:2018),”
People readily fall for fashionable terminology like nano and organic.
It is a sad situation that very few even protested that liquid nitrogen is not obtainable at ambient conditions.
(Liquid nitrogen is a cryogenic substance. I came across a medical use for it when a verruca in my son’s heel was killed by chilling it to a very low temperature.)