Lanka placed sixth in the world in organic farming

By Hiran H.Senewiratne

Sri Lanka was placed sixth in the world on organic farming with more than 15,215 hectares, amounting to 0.65 per cent of total agricultural land in the country under it comprising around 3,300 such farms, a top agriculturist said.

 "Currently, Sri Lanka is focusing on producing organic tea, spices and fruits for the international market. Those items have a very high demand from US and the European Union countries," Additional Secretary to the Ministry of Agriculture Dr D. B. T. Wijeratne told The Island.

He said that 15 organizations, both private and non-government were responsible for exporting 753 metric tonnes of organic tea, spices, essential oils, cashew, desiccated coconut, dried fruits, vegetables and herbs to the world market worth Rs. 543 million.

Dr. Wijeratne said that agriculturalists were now aware of the value of the organic fertiliser as its "input to agriculture today was recognized to be central to sustainable food production instead of chemical fertilizer".

He said that the economy of Sri Lanka was mainly based on agriculture and it was more suitable to have sustainable natural agriculture system in the country.

 Once those ecological farming practices were tuned to follow an efficient management system, such lands could be inspected and certified as organic according to international standards with shorter period of conversion at a lower cost, Dr Wijeratne said.

Moving to simplified agricultural systems offers opportunities to produce food much in demand while enhancing natural landscapes. At the same time, biodiversity destruction in all agro ecosystems should be seen as being due to use of chemicals, he said.

Senior Officer attached to Asia Productivity Organisation, Dr. M. Saeed, who was in Sri Lanka for a seminar, told The Island that organic farming was more sustainable although its effect was very slow. "If one uses organic fertiliser continuously for four years it would condition the soil system, which is more suitable for long term sustainability and for the agriculture sector," he said.

If countries use organise fertiliser instead of chemical fertiliser more effectively we could ensure food safety and food quality. And, in turn the country could earn foreign exchange because there was a very big demand for organic products in the EU and US markets.

The organic movement in Sri Lanka was started in the 1980s where a group of local NGO representatives, planters, scientists and environmental officers had drafted a Memorandum of Association to create a movement named Lanka Organic Agriculture Movement (LOAM).

This can be seen as the official starting point for the dissemination of organic agriculture in Sri Lanka. The primary objectives of LOAM are to promote organic agriculture, to establish, improve and maintain standards for organic agriculture and to create awareness of organic products among the people of Sri Lanka.

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