- CPC to distribute glyphosate islandwide
- Weedicide will only be issued twice a year according to industry requirement
- Registrar of Pesticides, Plantation Industries Ministry, Tea Small Holdings Development Authority and Tea Research Institute to strictly monitor use of glyphosate
- Tea industry hails Govt. decision to remove ban on glyphosate
- Govt. to reissue gazette restricting use of glyphosate to tea and rubber plantations
- Tea exporters and planters raise concerns about losing Japanese market
By Charumini de Silva
The Government yesterday said it was expecting the first consignment of the controversial weedicide glyphosate to be released to the tea and rubber industry by mid next month, a top official confirmed.
The Cabinet of Ministers in May approved of lifting of the ban on the glyphosate weedicide only for tea and rubber industries for a period of 36 months, however the Registrar of Pesticides has lifted the ban on glyphosate for all crops throughout the country via a Special Gazette dated on 11 July.
“The first shipment of glyphosate is expected around 15 August. The Ceylon Petroleum Cooperation (CPC) has been given the sole authority to import and distribute glyphosate to the tea and rubber industries,” Plantation Industries Ministry Secretary J. Ranjith told Daily FT.
Noting that the CPC had already commenced the procurement process, he however said that the delivery of first consignment would depend on the time taken for the procurement process.
Ranjith said the controversial weedicide would only be released to the industry twice a year considering the industry requirement which will then be strictly monitored by various institutions.
“We hope to issue glyphosate twice a year. The Registrar of Pesticides, Plantation Industries Ministry, Tea Small Holdings Development Authority and Tea Research Institute will strictly monitor its use,” he added.
While welcoming the Government’s decision to lift the ban on glyphosate, the plantation industry and tea exporters however expressed concerns on getting the first consignment of weedicide on time to be utilised for the next season and overcoming the issues the industry had gotten into without the use of the pesticide.
Tea Exporters Association (TEA) Chairman Jayantha Karunaratne pointed out that as the Special Gazette dated on 11 July had lifted the ban on glyphosate for all crops, the industry now expected the Government to issue a further gazette restricting the use of the controversial weedicide to tea and rubber.
“We hail the Government’s decision to remove the ban on glyphosate,” he added.
Tea is Sri Lanka’s largest foreign exchange earning crop, accounting for about $ 1.5 billion annually. Sri Lanka produces about 300 million kilogrammes of tea each year.
Karunaratne emphasised that withdrawing glyphosate from the market during the past three years had resulted in a massive economic cost and posed a threat to the sustainability of the tea export market, which generates much-needed foreign income to the country.
“With no access to glyphosate, planters used various other alternative weedicides which got the tea industry into trouble. The Japanese and the European Union (EU) countries have already flagged red as they have detected that the accepted level of weedicide had been exceeded in our exported teas,” he stressed.
He noted that there was a threat of losing the Japanese market to competitive markets like Kenya.
“The Government, exporters and other stakeholders have assured the issue will be sorted soon and adhere to the accepted level of weedicide use according to the Japanese use. We hope that we will be able to resolve the issue in the near future,” Karunaratne expressed confidence.
Planters’ Association Chairman Sunil Poholiyadde also welcomed the decision taken by the Government to lift the ban on glyphosate.
He however raised concerns in getting the first shipment of glyphosate on time to be utilised for the next season.
“We are not fully aware how the whole procedure is going to be with the distribution and the arrival date of the first consignment. The distribution will be handled via CPC, so there are practical concerns which we are worried about. The unavailability of glyphosate caused us great loss and put tea exports into distress,” he pointed out.
Poholiyadde said adhering to Japanese rules would be critical as time was ticking fast.
According to the Plantation Industry Ministry, the tea industry alone has incurred a loss of Rs. 26 billion per year due to the ban imposed on glyphosate.
In 2015, President Maithripala Sirisena banned glyphosate, fearing it was causing Chronic Kidney Disease (CKD) after some researchers published a paper linking glyphosate to the disease, which is prevalent in the North Central Province of the country.
The National Economic Council (NEC) decided to lift the arbitrary ban imposed on glyphosate in March 2018, in light of overwhelming scientific consensus that the substance was not harmful to human health.