The Sunday Leader

Farmers Hit By The Lack Of Subsidized Fertilizer

  • Govt fails to uphold pledge

By Nadine Mariah

The shortage of subsidized fertilizer has caused immense problems to the farmers, the All Ceylon Farmers’ Association claimed. Farmers note that they have not been provided with the subsidized fertilizers promised by the government.
Although the issue has been continuously brought to the attention of the Ministry of Agriculture, no substantial steps have been taken to address these grievances.

Minister of Agriculture, Mahinda Yapa Abeywardena insists there has been nothing more than a “small delay” and confirmed that the government has done its utmost to restore the faith of the farming community.

However, National Organizer of the All Ceylon Farmers’ Association, Namal Karunaratne told The Sunday Leader that timing was absolutely crucial in maximizing crop yield.

He explained that the influx of fertilizer usage in the 1970s, speaking not only for the paddy farmers, but also for the tea, rubber and vegetable farmers, has led to soil compositions growing accustomed to the fertilizers at a specific time. If these chemical patterns are dislocated, it could affect up to an entire season.

“Delays not only prohibit proper agriculture being practiced, but also affects the growth of a plant to the scale of a yield level, and creates a high probability for crops to contact fungi and pest related diseases capable of destroying farming on a long term basis,” Karunaratne said.

The Minister however maintained that the delay should not affect crops in the slightest. He claimed steps had been taken to ensure that the fertilizer is available for the use of the farming community, and that the suggestion of any shortage of it was fictional
“At the moment there is no shortage of fertilizer at all, the shipments have arrived now, in fact another shipment has arrived at the port, and another is due to arrive on the 13th, so I don’t think there will be any problem with that,” Abeywardena said
Areas to have suffered the worst include Moneragala, Embilipitiya, Vavuniya and Hambantota.

The President in his policy statement, the Mahinda Chinthana, had promised to not only provide 50kg bags of all kinds of inorganic fertilizer at a subsidized rate of Rs 350, but also to provide good quality seeds at cheap prices, and to write off cultivation loans that could not be repaid by farmers.

All to improve the lives of the farming community which he believed to be neglected by the political elite, in their luxury mansions in Colombo
“My father washed his hands from the waters flowing from the sluices of the paddy fields before signing his nomination papers. Therefore, the terminology associated with paddy farming is not alien to me. Over the past 40 years, I have been dreaming about farmer families in their own decent homes, with two wheel tractors and paddy storage facilities. I believe that I will be able to finally realize this dream,” the Mahinda Chinthana said.
Farmers who spoke to The Sunday Leader said that the price of a bag of fertilizer has not only increased to Rs 500, but that the amount to be issued was also reduced by 30 percent.

Many farmers have pawned personal assets including jewellery to keep up with the influx of price, and shortage of supply. Some have taken high interest loans for the consequential rise in cultivation costs and are now facing red notices and bank penalties, being unable to make repayment on loans. Others have deposited 50 percent of the cost of fertilizer to obtain it and are yet to receive anything. In short, “The farmer now has neither the money, nor the fertilizer,” Karunaratne said
The Minister however denies claims of lack of, or any delay of any fertilizer in the market.

“I can’t see where the supplies have been delayed, a delay of ten to fifteen days and nothing more”, the Minister remarked. He then added that the government was on the side of the farming community in understanding any grievances that might be voiced; although regarding the allegations of shortage of fertilizer, the situation was nothing more than a few delays of shipments which has been taken up by the government and resolved,” he said.

There have also been claims of a sufficient market not being created for the selling of paddy, where in which the farming community is left struggling despite electoral promises to deliver the opposite. This was voiced earlier in the year when the government was accused by the Farmers association of supporting mill owners affiliated to the government by not stipulating a reasonable price for the purchase of paddy.
“The farming community has been constantly tricked. We have made appeals to various Human Rights organizations with no avail. We would like our demands met, our promises fulfilled, and our cultivation restored,” Karunaratne said

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