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Organic fertiliser pivot continues to send shockwaves through agriculture sector

20 September 2022 08:36 am - 8     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

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  • Agriculture sector shrinks four quarters in a row before recording deepest contraction of 8.4% in 2Q22

The disastrous organic fertiliser pivot, which came to a head in the second quarter of this year, plunged Sri Lanka’s agriculture sector to an unprecedented decline, creating a massive food crisis in the country.

Parsing of data dating back to 2016 showed that the sector hasn’t hit the current depths even during the worst of the extreme weather conditions experienced in 2016 and 2017. 

And even during the pandemic, the sector quickly rebounded after a brief setback in the first two quarters in 2020.

The agriculture sector contracted by 5.5 percent and 4.0 percent, respectively in the first and second quarters of 2020, before staging a strong rebound of 3.9 percent in the following quarter.

The sector continued to expand and accelerated its pace through the second quarter of 2021, until the organic fertiliser shock started sending shockwaves through the sector. 

For instance, the sector expanded by a strong 6.4 percent in the first quarter of 2021, followed by an even robust 11.2 percent growth in the second quarter of the same year, before the government threw a wrench into chemical fertiliser use.  As a result, many farmers abandoned growing their crops while others agitated against the ban on chemical fertiliser, while the government bungled its promised organic fertiliser supply. 

The agriculture sector, which first contracted by 2.8 percent in the third quarter last year, continued to deepen its decline to 3.1 percent in the final quarter in 2021 and 6.8 percent in the first quarter in 2022, before shedding as much as 8.4 percent in the most recent quarter ended in June from a year ago.   The government made an embarrassing acknowledgement of its policy blunder and made a U-turn in November last year to restore chemical fertiliser supply. 

However, it never returned to its former levels of supply and instead ran into severe shortages of fertiliser from the beginning of the year, due to the crippling dollar shortage and soaring prices of fertiliser, exacerbated by the Russia-Ukraine war.

As of late, the government has managed to ensure continuous supply of fertiliser by way of donor funding and prioritising the limited foreign currency spending into fertiliser to ensure that the country averts a severe food shortage.

Releasing the second quarter GDP data, the Census and Statistics Department said the deeper agricultural sector decline was led by the 32.3 percent contraction in cereals, 19.7 percent decline in tea, 15.6 percent slump in paddy, 15.3 percent fall in marine fishing, 13.7 percent slide in rubber and 13.6 percent and 13.2 percent plunges in animal production and vegetables, respectively. 

However, the fresh water fishing, plant propagation and agriculture supporting activities, growing of oleaginous fruits, including coconut, forestry and logging, perennial crops and spices expanded during the quarter under review from a year earlie


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  Comments - 8

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  • Pavadeniya Tuesday, 20 September 2022 09:05 AM

    The entire population of the country, particularly the poor have been made to suffer immensely, but the man responsible and his Advisors are unlikely to have been affected in any way.

    BuffaloaCitizen Tuesday, 20 September 2022 09:09 AM

    We are ponna group of Citizens. If this happened in any other country, the culprits Gota, Mahinda

    One stupid word Tuesday, 20 September 2022 09:27 AM

    The ownership of this disaster goes wholly to the deposed President Gotabaya, some wayward ministers, and of course the ONE monk Ratane in Parliament - who still refuses to acknowledge his ignorance of the issue. Does the Paddy Mafia or a foreign power behind this plot have any say(?). But this is a crime against all Sri Lankans, that is certain. Just one single stupid instruction, which claims to be LAW! Gone, everything is GONE.

    Randula Jayamaha Tuesday, 20 September 2022 10:30 AM

    Problem is always lack of dollars. Our farming sector is dependent on imports - chemical fertilizer at least.. Fishing is dependent totally on fuel. If there is no chemical, then there is no agriculture. Compared to 100 years ago, the needs of farming is utterly changed. Trying to keep up with doing everything here is a lost cause. We are not an economically independent nation, which can be an island to unto itself. The Central Bank and government seems to think they can control our rupee value against the dollar, but don't see the long term harm to our society by their muddle pigheadedness. We have to fit in economically with how the world puts prices, and compete for dollars accordingly. We will only have worse to come unless we allow the free flow of dollars in again, but giving up on fixed dollar rate.

    Sam Tuesday, 20 September 2022 11:59 AM

    Isn't the demand going to be less also? People cannot afford to buy them so the demand must be down accordingly. People have also been growing more at home which will also lesson demand.

    Shiran Tuesday, 20 September 2022 12:03 PM

    If only our then "enlightened " President had taken the obvious decision to continue with chemical fertilizers, our People would not have faced the current food shortage, leading to malnourished children. So sad, it is criminal

    Seneka Munaweera Tuesday, 20 September 2022 02:41 PM

    Did anyone take any legal action against the then, members of the GMOA for being economic parasites? Afterall, were they not responsible in someway for this chaotic agricultural mess in our country?

    Punishment is to deter offence Tuesday, 20 September 2022 11:52 PM

    Just because a person drive through a ONE WAY and escaped punishment, does not mean that Police will allow all to drive ONE WAY. Punishment is also to serve as deterrent for would be offender ls in future, while punishing the one who committed. Let the law punish the one who committed, so that another foolish minded one does not to repeat it.


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