Did Sri Lanka jump headlong into Organic food without fully understanding the cost-benefit ratios?
Sri Lanka’s President Gotabaya Rajapaksa on Monday said he regretted the decision to ban chemical fertilizers in 2020, which resulted in a massive drop in food production and large-scale protests in the country. He also said his government should have opted to go for an International Monetary Fund (IMF) bailout much earlier. “It was a mistake not to go”. He was speaking to his newly inducted Cabinet Ministers in a bid to revive the country from the ongoing economic chaos. Gotabaya Rajapaksa admitted to the new Ministers that his decision to ban chemical fertilizers in farming was “a mistake” and corrective steps were being taken now.
Gotabaya Rajapaksa on Monday appointed a new 17-member Cabinet that excluded his close relatives except for his elder brother and party supremo Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa, as he called for a “system change” amidst growing demand for his resignation over the worst economic crisis faced by the island nation. Sri Lanka is facing unprecedented economic turmoil since its independence from Britain in 1948. The crisis is caused in part by a lack of foreign currency, which has meant that the country cannot afford to pay for imports of staple foods and fuel, leading to acute shortages and very high prices.
Gotabaya Rajapaksa in mid-2020 banned the use of fertilizer imports in order to turn to a green agricultural policy with organic fertilizer. Agriculturists had protested the move, saying there would be a food shortage due to crop loss/loss in field output. Notwithstanding, the government had gone ahead with the move and followed it up with a crackdown on shopkeepers and traders following reports of hoarding of staple food items.
Commenting on the ongoing public protests, Gotabaya Rajapaksa said, “I can understand the anger of the people, they have to put up with the high cost of living while suffering in the queues to buy essentials.” Sri Lankan Government resisted calls from economists to resort to a bailout from the IMF in view of dwindling foreign reserves. Lankan delegation is currently in Washington negotiating with the IMF after it announced last week, the island’s first-ever international debt default.
The stock exchange has also been suspended for a week with effect from Monday. The state power entity said there will be four and a half-hour power cuts on Monday. Adding to public woes is the Lanka Indian oil company (LIOC) announcement of further price hikes for petrol and diesel with effect from Sunday midnight. The LIOC raised fuel prices for the fourth time since February.
[with PTI inputs]
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