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Glyphosate committee report heads to Cabinet


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  • PM already given report, expected to present it for Cabinet discussion this week 
  • Committee seeks stakeholder views from tea and agriculture industries 
  • President and Rathana Thero representatives also present during committee discussions

 

By Uditha Jayasinghe

A report giving recommendations on the controversial glyphosate ban is expected to be taken up for discussion at the Cabinet meeting this week and could lead to a change in the present Government stance, an official said yesterday.

In December Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe appointed a committee to study the glyphosate ban, which was headed by Western Region Megapolis Project Chairman and Wickremesinghe confidante Ajita de Costa. 

Stakeholders of the agriculture and tea industries were part of the deliberations conducted by the committee, Chairman de Costa told Daily FT, along with representatives of President Maithripala Sirisena and Member of Parliament Rathana Thero. The latter has remained a vociferous proponent of the glyphosate ban despite growing objections by the tea and agriculture sectors. Top agriculture officials of the Government also sat in on the committee meetings, de Costa confirmed.   

“The final report has already been sent to the Prime Minister and he will be presenting it to the Cabinet for discussions. We expect it to happen possibly this week,” he said. Cabinet customarily meets every Tuesday. 

The tea industry in particular has been lobbying to have the ban overturned, at least in part. Tea smallholders have pointed out that weeding by hand is difficult due to labour shortages and drives up production costs. They together with the Minister have been lobbying to loosen the weedicide ban to allow imports for the tea sector.

Plantations Minister Navin Dissanayake had earlier slammed “people with political agendas” who were fighting to maintain the controversial glyphosate ban, which the tea industry has been lobbying against. 

“We are not asking for the ban to be lifted. What we are asking for is to bring in about 5,000 litres, which is nowhere near the 2.7 million litres imported in 2014. It is impossible to engage in commercial agriculture without weedicide. That is the reality. We as a country should have the space for democratic discourse and transparent policymaking. These should not be driven by selected people with vested interests,” he said.

Tea industry stakeholders have criticised the ban, which was taken with little industry consultation, as adding to their woes and causing millions of rupees in losses.


 

January tea output falls 15.3%

Reuters: Sri Lanka’s tea output fell 15.3% in January due to adverse weather, poor application of fertilisers and a Government ban on pesticides, the State-run Tea Board said on Monday. 

“Mainly it is the weather; in addition to that, other factors like (poor application of) fertiliser and (Government ban on) weedicide also impacted,” said Sri Lanka Tea Board Director-General S.A. Siriwardena.

Siriwardena did not give a forecast for 2017 and the board said it needs to study the weather pattern before forecasting 2017 tea production.

The Indian Ocean island nation’s tea output hit a seven-year low in 2016, falling 11.1% in its third straight year of declining production due to adverse weather. 

Tea exports dropped to a 14-year low, broker data showed. 

Tea is the country’s top agricultural export commodity and one of the main foreign currency earners for the $ 82 billion economy.

Export earnings fell 5.3% to $ 1.26 billion in 2016 from $ 1.33 billion in 2015. Sri Lanka recorded its highest earnings of $1.63 billion in 2014.

Russia was the largest importer of Sri Lankan tea in 2016, followed by Iran and Iraq. Turkey dropped to fourth position in 2016 from second in 2015.

Export volumes to other major buyers such as the United Arab Emirates, Libya, Syria and Kuwait fell significantly last year, the broker report said.

 


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