- Notes that circumvention of security protocols affects over 30 percent of people’s livelihoods in agriculture
- Says that the presence of harmful bacteria, even in such a small sample, should sound the alarm on the adequacy of the declared procedure
- SLAF strictly recommends that shipment not be permitted at this point until appropriate measures for national security can be ensured.
- He appeals to the government. engage with stakeholders towards a just transition to sustainable agriculture, ensuring policy coherence
The Sri Lanka Agripreneurs’ Forum (SLAF) yesterday expressed serious concerns over the importation of a batch of contaminated organic fertilizers into the country.
Here is the amended version of the SLAF statement.
The Minister of Agriculture and the National Plant Quarantine Services (NPQS) have officially responded to the case through official announcements.
The NPQS announcement officially confirmed that organic fertilizer samples imported from China tested positive for gram-negative and gram-positive bacteria, as well as specific harmful pathogens listed.
Gram bacteria are known pathological causes of disease in humans as well as in plants. Such pathogens increase the likelihood of handling hazards and there is a risk that water sources will be contaminated with such harmful bacteria.
According to the guidelines of the National Fertilizer Secretariat (NFS), the guidelines for importing any fertilizer, including organic fertilizers, are clear – the first samples of the fertilizer of choice are to be tested in Sri Lanka by Sri Lanka Standards Institute (SLSI) or SLSI advised testing laboratory.
If the samples are declared clear, the importer can then progress to importing commercial quantities, which will again be subjected to further random testing to further establish purity and quality.
Regarding the declared samples of organic fertilizers imported from China, the SLAF representing the agricultural sector identified some anomalies.
First, the prescribed process declared by the NFS to import organic fertilizers was not followed. According to the agriculture minister, even if the sample that is already here in Sri Lanka has tested positive for contaminants, the commercial shipment will be allowed into the country and then subjected to further testing.
Sri Lanka Agripreneurs’ Forum is deeply concerned that such a violation of the protocol could lead to the unintentional release of foreign microorganisms into the environment, which could cause irreversible damage to our natural ecosystems with far-reaching implications. scope for the agricultural sector.
Second, the Forum is concerned about the lack of disclosure and the lack of stakeholder engagement by the authorities in this regard, beyond an acknowledgment that the samples contained contaminants.
As this decision to bypass safety protocols impacts the health and environment of the entire country and over 30 percent of people’s livelihoods in agriculture, SLAF would like to highlight the he importance of transparency with the competent authorities and notes with concern the vagueness of the information shared.
Third, according to official statements, this individual sample of organic fertilizers was tested by a Chinese testing laboratory in accordance with SLSI’s mandate.
However, by subverting the national due diligence standards accepted in Sri Lanka, this decision sets a dangerous precedent, where greater reliance is placed on questionable reports transmitted by suppliers from tests carried out by unaccredited laboratories, which may not not
to be independent.
SLAF questions the approach of the competent authorities regarding the acceptance of such unreliable test reports submitted by the suppliers, then the finding that the samples are contaminated when they arrive at the port, to then allow the shipment of consignments. more in the country, despite the problems observed.
Considering that it is practical to ensure that a sample of a few kilograms is representative of the thousands of tonnes (96,000 tonnes in this case) to be imported, the fact that even such a small sample has shown the presence of harmful bacteria, should sound the alarm on the very adequacy of the declared procedure, which also has
Therefore, unless and until this issue is resolved in such a way as to ensure that there is no possibility of contamination by biological material considered harmful or not, as specified in SLSI 1704 which governs the quality of solid organic fertilizers, a decision to allow the shipment to arrive in Sri Lanka would be counterintuitive.
Once this shipment arrives, many other issues will come into play, such as business interests and financial losses, as witnessed by similar cases in the past in Sri Lanka. There will be attempts to cover up the danger and free the expedition with possible serious consequences for which neither the Minister nor anyone else will take responsibility.
We therefore strictly recommend that the shipment not be permitted at this stage until appropriate measures for national security can be ensured, and not through mere statements by the Minister.
SLAF further wishes to raise a concern that involves a potential reluctance of the scientific community to become involved in the process of explaining the precise and potential issues, if they were to test the commercial shipment of the organic fertilizer, including the samples. are now declared to be contaminated. In such a situation, we, as the general population of Sri Lanka and as agro-industries facing a direct potential threat from contaminated organic fertilizers, will not be able to know the likely extent and certainty of threats that this situation would pose.
Minister Mahindananda Aluthgamage announced that the Ministry of Agriculture has granted authorizations to two state-owned companies to import organic fertilizers from September 16, 2021, for tea, coconut, rubber and others cultures. On the contrary, according to the minister’s statement in July, there is sufficient locally produced organic fertilizer for all crops.
Many people and organizations have invested and committed to making such organic fertilizers locally, but there has been no attempt to ensure the success of these steps and whether or not these efforts are adequate to meet the needs. national fertilizer requirements. Without this initial step, this hasty decision to import organic fertilizers already proven to be potentially contaminated is a big hurdle for local manufacturers. The incongruity of these statements begs the motives for changing decisions in the space of two months.
In view of the issues raised above and the doubt as to the very adequacy of the declared testing process, even diligently followed, this decision also needs to be closely scrutinized. As Sri Lanka’s current foreign exchange reserves collapse, the agriculture industry is questioning the motives for spending up to US $ 400 million to import organic fertilizers. The view of SLAF and industry experts is that this value is more expensive than what Sri Lanka previously spent on importing synthetic fertilizers. While SLAF is strongly committed to promoting sustainable agriculture in Sri Lanka with greater adoption of Good Agricultural Practice (GAP) standards such as Integrated Plant Nutrient Systems and Integrated Pest Management, we are concerned about Ad hoc measures that the government has adopted in the recent past with respect to agriculture, which has affected the resilience of our food systems. SLAF calls on the government to engage with stakeholders towards a just transition to sustainable agriculture and to ensure policy coherence through a phased and widely accepted long-term implementation plan.
SLAF will constructively contribute to this transition by guiding policies through consultative processes involving all stakeholders and supporting the agrifood sector through access to knowledge and information, access to technology, access funding and market access by leveraging the strengths of our network and members.
SLAF is the premier agro-industry association in Sri Lanka that brings together key stakeholders in the agricultural sector – from those engaged in primary production (such as crop producers, ranchers and those engaged in aquaculture) to organizations of farmers, value-added agricultural businesses, agro-professionals and academics, agro-scientists, local and global agro-food traders, agro-food input suppliers, agro-tech and advisory and local services