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Sri Lanka snubs China after bad fertiliser deal and opts to buy more from India instead

All eyes on India's grain production (Photo: IANS)

Sri Lanka has rejected Beijing’s advice to conduct a re-test of the contaminated Chinese fertiliser it had sought and decided to import more nano nitrogen fertiliser from India instead.

Sri Lankan Minister of Lands, SM Chandrasena said that the cabinet has given its nod to importing more fertiliser from India. He added that the government will provide it free of cost to the farmers.

Indian farm cooperative organisation, Indian Farmers Fertiliser Cooperative Society (IFFCO) has sent a team of experts to interact with Sri Lankan farmers. Indian news agency UNI reported that the Indian experts met with farmers in Kilinochchi to introduce them to nano nitrogen liquid fertiliser techniques.

Meanwhile, resentment grows against the arm-twisting by Chinese fertiliser company Qingdao Seawin Biotech Group Co, which has parked its ship Hippo Spirit in international waters just outside Sri Lanka.

Sri Lankan rights activists have called the fertiliser ship a "nuclear bomb".

Namal Karunaratne–National Organiser of the All Ceylon Farmers Federation, said that the Chinese fertiliser if mixed with local soil will lead to spread of bacteria in Sri Lankan soil, which cannot be stopped.

Karunaratne said: "You can at least see the nuclear bomb but you cannot see the harmful bacteria. A nuclear bomb can be defused before it blasts but how can bacteria infected soil be cured. If this fertiliser entered the island nation it would be much worse than the coronavirus pandemic and we could never be able to get rid of the bad effects of it".

Sri Lankan government agency, National Plant Quarantine Service (NPQS) twice rejected the Chinese fertiliser in September saying that it contained a harmful microorganism called Erwinia, which will contaminate both crops as well as Sri Lankan soil. After the rejection of the fertiliser, China insisted that Sri Lanka should get its fertiliser tested from an international agency.

At stake is a 99,000 mt consignment of Chinese organic fertiliser valued at nearly $5 million.

Sri Lanka has outrightly rejected the Chinese suggestion of conducting another test. Additional Director of the NPQS, Dr WNR Wickramarachchi has categorically told the Sri Lankan media that the test results are in accordance with international standards.

Wickramarachchi has been supported by Agriculture Ministry Secretary Udith K. Jayasinghe who reiterated that Sri Lanka is not going to a third party for testing the fertiliser.

The Chinese company even sought $8 million compensation from Sri Lanka for causing damage to its reputation. The Chinese embassy in Colombo also blacklisted a State-owned Sri Lankan bank in retaliation for not paying the cost of the contaminated fertiliser shipment.

Sri Lanka began importing Indian organic fertiliser even as the Chinese ship remained anchored around Sri Lanka for nearly two months in an effort to mount pressure on the island nation.