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Sri Lanka bans contaminated Chinese fertilizer

Organic plant nutrients from China were meant to replace the phased-out chemicals.

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Photo Courtesy : AFP

COLOMBO, Sri Lanka (AFP) — Sri Lanka has barred a Chinese ship carrying desperately needed organic fertilizer that experts have found to be tainted with harmful bacteria, officials said Sunday.

The action comes as Sri Lanka battles food shortages caused by a currency crisis while farmers have said a government ban on chemical fertilizer could ruin their crops this year.

President Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s office said the 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.”

A Commercial High Court has banned any payment to Qingdao Seawin Biotech Group Co., Ltd. for the 96,000 tons of fertilizer, an official statement added.

Authorities halted the $42 million deal last month, but reports said the cargo had still been shipped and was due in Colombo. The location of the ship has not been revealed.

Sri Lanka Ports Authority said the agricultural ministry ordered them on Saturday 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 100 percent organic farming nation.

The organic plant nutrients from China were meant to replace the phased-out chemicals during the main rice cultivation season that started 15 October.

Following widespread farmer protests that the abandoning of agrochemicals would critically hit yields, the government last week lifted the ban on chemical fertilizer imposed in May.

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