V Sajeev Kumar

Public sector fertiliser firm IFFCO is the first beneficiary of the Sri Lankan government’s decision to make a major shift in its organic policy by allowing imports of chemical fertilisers.

It has begun the process by importing nano nitrogen liquid fertiliser (nano urea) from India for the cultivation of maize and paddy in the island nation.

An IFFCO spokesperson told BusinessLine that the company has till date airlifted 44,000 bottles of nano nitrogen liquid and the total quantity contracted to export will be around one million bottles.

After starting the commercial production of nano urea, he said IFFCO is receiving enquiries from various countries. However, due to heavy demand from domestic farmers, the company could not heed to the request.

‘Harmful Chinese imports’

“We have started exporting the product as it is a slag season for urea demand and by considering the fact that Sri Lanka is a neighbouring country. This was initiated by Fertilisers Department,” he said.

Planters community here pointed out that Sri Lanka has stopped imports of Chinese organic fertilisers after finding it highly contaminated with harmful bacteria. The island nation also imported 30,000 tonnes of potassium chloride from Lithuania and India is in the process of further shipping ammonium sulphate in the wake of a drop in tea production. Farmers’ protest, especially by tea growers, has forced the Sri Lankan government to change its organic policy in view of the drop in exports of the brew, which used to fetch a revenue of around $3 billion annually. Sri Lanka in May banned the imports of all chemical fertilisers in its effort to make the country a 100 per cent organic farming nation. The decision led to widespread protest from farmers, as it severely hit the country when it was reeling under the crisis of Covid and the resultant drop in tourism earnings.

PT Joseph, Managing Director, Tropical Plantations, Vandiperiyar, said that unlike rubber, tea bushes need constant application of fertiliser at least two to three rounds in a year. The non-availability of organic manure in the island nation and the ban on chemical fertilisers have affected the crop, making tea business unviable.

Sri Lanka mostly produces orthodox tea varieties and the production drop would have given some advantage for Nilgiris teas. Sri Lankan orthodox tea is mainly exported to Europe, whereas Indian orthodox grades find markets in West Asia, Russia, Iran, etc. The quality of its packaging is the major USP of the Sri Lankan product, he said.