Govt moots paradigm shift to organic fertilizer | Daily News

Govt moots paradigm shift to organic fertilizer

CFC Hunupitiya, Wattala warehouse and  Chairman Methsiri  Wijegoonawardana. Pictures by Dinesh Perera.
CFC Hunupitiya, Wattala warehouse and Chairman Methsiri Wijegoonawardana. Pictures by Dinesh Perera.

The government over 10 years expects to bring to a negligible level the usage of chemical fertilizer emulating the success of Vietnam and Norway.

“The task is no small feat as countries like India and Nepal have had issues trying to achieve the same policy,” Chairman Ceylon Fertilizer Corporation (CFC) Methsiri Wijegoonawardana told the Daily News Business at their Head Office in Hunupitiya, Wattala. In the medium term, the company plans to switch from chemical fertilizers to organic fertilizer to reduce external damage to both the environment and affected populations.

On the long term plan to switch to organic fertilizer Wijegoonawardana noted that there would be problems with government intervention. If the government is to incentivize the usage of organic fertilizer then it must be at least the same price as chemical fertilizer.

Wijegoonawardana cautioned over the requirement to rethink pricing if the 3-year goal of bringing down chemical fertilizer usage by 25% was to be achieved. Drip irrigation technology was cited as a method to reduce inputs in farming but the know-how remains with the developed nations. Fertilizer subsidy is placed at the point of importation. Even large private companies benefit from treasury subsidy on the importation of fertilizer. Under the current government, there has been a policy that Colombo Commercial Fertilizers (CCF) distributes fertilizer free of charge to paddy farmers.

He noted that the previous policy of making payment directly to the farmer was unsuitable. He said many issues arose with direct payments.

The direct payment policy was also hurt by the imposition of price controls that created a shortage of fertilizer in the market.

The government’s policy of switching to organic fertilizer comes after considerable evidence of the harmful impact of farming inputs on both the health of society and the damage it causes to the soil and environment.

Colombo Commercial Fertilizer currently provides 40% of the supply to paddy farmers. Under the new arrangement, there is a National Fertilizer Secretariat which assesses the requirement for fertilizer for both the Yala and Maha season.

On the calculations of the Secretariat CCF and Ceylon Fertilizers (Lakpohora) procure the required quantities and to be financially viable the company has obtained the assistance of Rs 36 billion from the treasury.

The distribution is subsequently made with the assistance of agrarian service centres to paddy farmers with less than a 2-hectare landholding free of charge. Wijegoonawardana said this had happened without major issues.