Sri Lanka Lifts Ban on Pesticides to Face Crisis
Sri Lanka abandons its attempt of becoming the first country to employ organic agriculture completely.
Sri Lanka is facing a severe economic crisis amid shortages in foreign currency causing shortages of food, crude oil, and other basic commodities. Last month, the authorities lifted restrictions on fertilizer imports for tea, the country's main exports commodity.
But before farmers' planned protests in the capital, Sri Lanka's Agriculture Ministry said it would lift a broader ban on agricultural chemicals including herbicides and insecticides.
"We will now allow chemical inputs that are urgently needed," Ministry Secretary Udith Jayasinghe told the private News First TV network. She added that "considering the need to ensure food security, we have taken this decision."
After the import ban on pesticides was implemented in May, large swaths of farmland were abandoned by farmers.
Last week, shortages deteriorated, with prices of rice, vegetables, and other market staples doubling across Sri Lanka. Rice sales have also been rationed at supermarkets, with each customer receiving only five kilograms of it (11 pounds).
Farmers' groups planned to march on Colombo's national Parliament on Friday to demand the import of critical chemicals to safeguard their crops.
President Gotabaya Rajapaksa justified the import ban saying that he wanted Sri Lankan agriculture to be completely organic.
The program was implemented after the island's cash-strapped economy took a huge hit as a result of the Covid-19 outbreak, with tourism profits and migrant worker remittances plummeting.
Last year, authorities tried to save money by banning a variety of imported commodities, including some food and spices. Last month, Sri Lanka closed its sole oil refinery when it ran out of funds to buy crude.