How Sri Lanka’s overnight flip to total organic farming has led to an economic disaster;
At the root of this economic catastrophe is a bizarre overnight flip by Rajapaksa’s government on 29 April to ban the import of chemical fertilisers and any other agrochemicals to make the Indian Ocean nation the first in the world to practice organic-only agriculture.
The result: prices of daily food items like sugar, rice and onions have soared over twice, with sugar even touching record Rs 200/kg; kerosene oil and cooking gas prices are surging; tea crops are predicted to fail in October; and there are fears over a hit to production of other crucial export crops like cinnamon, pepper, rubber, cardamom, cloves, nutmeg, betel leaves, cocoa, and vanilla.
These developments come amid a 30 basis points rise in the month-on-month inflation in the country, jumping to 6 per cent in August from 5.7 per cent in July. Its foreign reserves plunged 62% to $2.8 billion in July against $7.5 billion in November 2019. Moreover, the Sri Lankan rupee has fallen 7 per cent against the US dollar this year.
According to the Sri Lankan government, two primary reasons have driven the inflation — crashing tourism due to the pandemic, and hoarding of food items. The dip in tourism also hit the forex reserves.
The crisis has now reached such a proportion that a former army general has been appointed as ‘commissioner general of essential services’ to raid and seize food stocks. The officer has been tasked to ensure sale of products at government-named prices or on custom import costs. Sri Lanka is a net food importer.
Eco-fantasy, meet reality.