COLOMBO: The Sri Lankan government has decided to partially lift the ban on chemical fertilisers and permit the private sector to import it to allow the country's farmers to purchase it from the open market, Agriculture Minister Mahindananda Aluthgamage said on Wednesday.
President Gotabaya Rajapaksa in May ordered a halt to importing chemical fertilisers to turn the island nation's agriculture sector to 100 per cent organic.
However, the decision to lift the ban came due to the constant pressure from the farmers as they claimed their crop production was declining.
"A gazette notice in this regard will be issued and the private sector will be able to import chemical fertilisers, weedicides and pesticides with effect from today," Aluthgamage said.
However, the minister insisted that the policy to promote green agriculture in the country has not changed.
Following last week's confusion when the top agriculture bureaucrat Udith Jayasinghe implied that there would be a blanket lifting of the ban on chemical fertiliser imports, the minister said the import ban for chemical fertiliser needed for paddy and cultivation would remain.
Jayasinghe had told reporters that it was not possible to meet all fertiliser needs from domestically produced organic fertiliser.
"The nitrogen content of organic fertiliser is about 3 to 4 per cent," Jayasinghe said.
"For paddy cultivation, 80,000 metric tonnes of nitrogen is needed for this season. This cannot be done entirely from compost fertiliser domestically," he added.
Sri Lanka's vegetable prices have almost doubled in recent weeks as protesting farmers stopped cultivation.
The economic centre in Nuwara Eliya, a key vegetable producing region in the central hill district, was closed since Sunday after farmers refused to send crops.
With the import ban in effect Sri Lanka imported over 3.1 million liters of Nano nitrogen liquid fertiliser from India last month.
Sri Lanka's annual fertiliser imports cost USD 400 million, President Rajapaksa said when the ban was originally announced.