Sri Lanka has barred a Chinese ship carrying desperately needed organic fertilizer that experts have found to be tainted with harmful bacteria, officials said yesterday.
The ban comes as Sri Lanka battles food shortages caused by a currency crisis.
Farmers have said that a ban on chemical fertilizer could ruin their crops this year.
The office of Sri Lankan President Gotabaya Rajapaksa said that the Sri Lankan National Plant Quarantine Services had tested a sample from the unnamed Chinese vessel and “confirmed the presence of organisms, including certain types of harmful bacteria.”
The Sri Lankan Commercial High Court has banned any payment to Qingdao Seawin Biotech Group for the 96,000 tonnes of fertilizer, an official statement added.
Authorities halted the US$42 million deal last month, but reports said that the cargo had still been shipped and was due in Colombo. The location of the ship has not been revealed.
The Sri Lanka Ports Authority said that the Sri Lankan Ministry of Agriculture on Saturday ordered it to prevent the unloading of the fertilizer in any port and to turn away the Chinese vessel.
Sri Lanka originally ordered the organic fertilizer from China as part of its efforts to become the world’s first fully organic farming nation.
The organic plant nutrients from China were meant to replace phased-out chemicals during the main rice cultivation season that started on Oct. 15.
Following widespread farmer protests that the abandoning of agrochemicals would critically hit yields, the Sri Lankan government last week lifted a ban on chemical fertilizer imposed in May.
It has since imported 30,000 tonnes of potassium chloride as fertilizer and about 3 million liters of nitrogen-based plant nutrients from India.
Farmers of tea — the main export commodity along with rice — have warned that crop yields could be halved without chemicals.
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