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Sunday, December 5, 2021

Sri Lanka abandons drive to become world’s first organic country amid spiralling food prices

Professor Buddhi Marambe, a former Dean of Agriculture Faculty at the University of Peradeniya, was sacked from his position as a government adviser after warning of serious food shortages in recent newspaper articles. 

On Sunday, Colombo announced it would immediately lift the import ban on pesticides and other agricultural inputs.

“We will now allow chemical inputs that are urgently needed,” Udith Jayasinghe, agricultural ministry secretary, told local media.

“Considering the need to ensure food security, we have taken this decision,” he said.

A global pioneer

Sri Lanka was aiming to be a global pioneer by switching to a fully organic agricultural sector. The European Union is also aiming to transition to organic farming under the Farm to Fork strategy, but at a much slower pace. The policy calls for increasing the percentage of EU farmland under organic management from 8.1 per cent to 25 per cent by 2030.

Sri Lanka’s organic farming policy was introduced as the economy was still reeling from the Covid-19 pandemic. The country is suffering a severe economic crisis, with the opposition blaming Mr Rajapaksa’s government’s policies for dwindling foreign reserves, high food prices, and shortages of food, fuel and other essential goods.

The shortages have worsened in the past week, with rice, vegetables and other essential food items doubling in price. Supermarkets have been limiting the amount of rice they sell to each customer.  

On Tuesday, the country’s main opposition political party, the United People’s Force, led a protest of thousands of people in Colombo against the deteriorating economic conditions as the parliament debated next year’s national budget.

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