Published on Daily Mirror
- 94% of paddy farmers dependent on chemical fertilizers
- Majority of farmers supportive of govt.’s policy of switching to organic farming practices
- But urge for realistic timeframe to implement the turn
- Cite lack of knowledge on organic farming practices as the biggest challenge
- Alongside rice, tea and rubber sectors also expected to take a hit
Sri Lanka’s food security is likely to take a hit in the short- term as farmers across the island expect a drop in harvest with the government’s new fertilizer policy that is introduced to promote organic farming practices.
The Farmers’ Pulse survey carried out by the Colombo-based think-tank Verité Research revealed that while 44 percent of farmers experienced a decline in harvest after the ban was imposed, 85 percent expect a decline in future harvest.
Over 90 percent of farmers surveyed said they currently use chemical fertilizer and the ban would hamper the output.
According to the survey, the availability of Sri Lanka’s staple food, rice, will take a hit from the government’s decision as nearly 94 percent of paddy farmers are dependent on chemical fertilizer to boost production.
The tea industry too is expected take a hit, alongside the rubber sector since 89 percent of those involved in the cultivation of the same stressed the need for chemical fertilizers.
Although participants of the survey acknowledged that they will face challenges in the future with the immediate stoppage of chemical fertilizers, two-thirds of the farmers expressed that they are supportive of the government’s decision to embrace organic agriculture practices.
However, over 80 percent said it is important to have a timeframe of at least a year to make that transition since they lack the knowledge to do so.
The survey, which is the first in Sri Lanka to capture the perception of local farmers on the policy decision, found that the majority of those involved in agriculture have a low level of confidence, in terms of knowledge, in embracing organic farming practices.
Only 20 percent of farmers said they had adequate knowledge on suitable organic fertilizers and the proper application of it to their crops.
When questioned on the support required by the government to make the switch, farmers had three major requests, which are; to provide advice and instructions on organic fertilizers, provide a more realistic timeframe, at least two years, to move towards organic farming, and ensure there is a standardised supply of organic alternatives.
The survey was implemented via telephone in July 2021 among 1,042 farmers. The survey sample consisted of farmers who cultivated crops for commercial purposes and was distributed evenly among all 9 provinces.
Additionally, only farmers who cultivate more than half-an-acre and have engaged in farming for more than three years were selected for the survey. The survey was conducted among farmers who cultivated paddy, fruits, vegetables, coconut, tea, minor export crops (spices), and cereal.