Published on Sunday Observer
Almost two-thirds of the farmers are supportive of the Government’s vision to move Sri Lanka into organic agriculture, according to a survey on the ban on the import of chemical fertiliser conducted by Verité Research recently.
However, almost 80 percent of those who are supportive feel that it would require over one year to do so. The survey revealed that there is a low level of confidence on the knowledge required for the transition.
Only 20 percent of the farmers said they had adequate knowledge on suitable organic fertiliser and the proper application of it to their crops. According to the study over 90 percent of farmers surveyed said they currently use chemical fertiliser, and almost all of them (85%) expect huge reductions in their harvest (average expected reduction of 47%) if they are not able to use chemical fertiliser.
The highest dependency on chemical fertiliser is among paddy farmers (94%) followed by tea and rubber (89%).
The three major requests that farmers make of the Government are for (1) advice and instructions on organic fertiliser (2) more time, so that it can be a gradual transition and (3) standardised supply of organic alternatives.
Verité Research conducted a ‘Farmers’ Pulse’ telephone survey to elicit the views of farmers, on this policy and its expected impact.
This is the first time that the perception of Sri Lankan farmers on this policy is being presented based on statistically representative islandwide survey results. Verité Research implemented this telephone survey in July 2021 among 1,042 farmers through Vanguard Survey, a specialised survey agency in Sri Lanka.
The survey sample consisted of farmers who cultivated crops for commercial purposes, and was distributed evenly among all nine provinces. 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. President Gotabaya Rajapaksa announced a ban on the import of chemical fertiliser in Sri Lanka on April 22 this year.
The ban on importation of chemical fertiliser was relaxed early this month following a gazette notification issued by Finance Minister Basil Rajapaksa re-authorising the import of several types of chemical fertiliser including urea for cultivation in the forthcoming Maha season
Those authorised to import have been permitted to import mineral or nitrogenous mixtures including urea, ammonium nitrate with calcium carbonate or other inorganic substances, superphosphates and mineral or chemical fertilisers containing two or all three elements nitrogen, potassium and phosphorus.
Verité Research is a private think tank that provides strategic analysis for Asia. Its main research and advisory divisions are in economics, politics, law, and media and is based in Colombo, Sri Lanka.