SL saddled with annual Rs 50 bln chemical fertilizer import bill


By Don Asoka Wijewardena

Sri Lanka spends over Rs. 50 billion annually on the importation of chemical fertilizers, out of which Rs. 40 billion is borne by the government as subsidies.

Around Rs. 8.5 billion can be saved annually if the agricultural community, especially the tea plantation sector, utilizes biofilm (bio- fertilizer) which is an environmentally -friendly, 100 per cent natural, chemical -free fertilizer manufactured with only locally sourced ingredients within Sri Lanka, said chairman Lanka Bio-Fertilizers (Pvt) Ltd Samantha Kumarasinghe at a media conference held at the Sri Lanka Foundation Institute on March 6.

He pointed out that Sri Lanka had been blessed with lush green vegetation which grew naturally on biologically balanced fertile soil. But as a consequence of excessive dumping of chemical fertilizers and agro-chemicals for over 60 years, the soil content of Sri Lanka had now critically deteriorated with detrimental effects on vegetation and human life.

Chairman Kumarasinghe emphasised that patented bio-fertilizer which had been developed over a period of ten years by a group of Sri Lankan scientists attached to the Institute of Fundamental Studies (IFS) could replace 50 per cent of chemical fertilizer usage in plantation crops.The bio-fertilizer did not contain any pathogenic micro-organism and was also free of heavy metals, such as, cadmium and arsenic,lead and mercury.

Research Professor Gamini Seneviratne (IFS) said that as tea had become the primary plantation crop, this new bio-fertilizer had been field-tested for many years across many tea-growing areas with assistance of the Tea Research Institute (TRI) of Sri Lanka.The results obtained through the fields tests had been highly positive.

He added that the important advantages of bio-fertilizers were reduction of chemical fertilizers usage by 50 per cent, a higher yield throughout the year, improved quality of tea due to increased organic matter in the soil, higher capability to react in water, making tea plants more drought-resistant and increased microbial diversity in the soil which improved natural pest and disease control.

Minister of Technology, Research and Atomic Energy Patali Champika Ranawaka said that as far as he was aware, from a national point of view, the use of bio-fertilizer in the tea plantation sector would save the country billions in foreign exchange as the importation of fertilizer for the tea sector alone was estimated to cost over Rs. 16 billion per annum. A 50 per cent reduction of chemical fertilizer in the tea plantation sector would, no doubt, reduce the import bill of the country by over Rs. 8 billion per annum.

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