In order to switch to organic fertilisers, Sri Lanka yet again relied on a Chinese company, only to get deceived in the end as the organic fertilizer supplied could not pass the two rounds of the National Plant Quarantine Services (NPQS) test due to high contamination. 

Moreover, the Chinese firm also pressurized Sri Lanka for the payment of contaminated fertilizer during the island nation’s worst economic crisis, Indo Pacific Centre for Strategic Communications reported. However, the SL government’s choice to transition to organic fertilisers had a negative impact on the nation’s crop productivity, leading to one of the highest rates of food inflation in the world.

Notably, Sri Lanka was the first country to ban chemical fertilizers in April 2021. The island nation, in a bid to save USD 400 million, the then President, Gotabaya Rajapaksa prohibited the import of chemical fertilizers and decide to opt for the usage of organic fertilizers. On August 11, 2021, a Chinese business, Qingdao Seawin Biotech Group Co. Ltd., was awarded a contract for the provision of organic fertiliser.

Following receipt of the contract, Qingdao group agreed to supply 99,000 metric tonnes of organic fertiliser over the course of four shipments to Ceylon Fertilizer Company (CFC) and Colombo Commercial Fertilizers, two local purchasers in Sri Lanka, according to Indo Pacific Centre for Strategic Communications. However, the consignment received by Sri Lanka was found severely contaminated by bacteria named ‘Erwinia’.

Erwinia causes plant diseases and generally infects a huge variety of fruits, grain crops, and vegetables too. The bacteria is of Gram-negative strain and a plant-specific pathogen which degrades the plant cell wall. The most frequent etiological agent of the economically significant bacterial soft rot is Pectobacteriumcarotovorum(erwinia).

The usage of organic fertiliser has become very popular globally since it offers substantial environmental advantages over chemical fertiliser use. Organic matters such as animal manure, sewage sludge, and food waste are also used for producing organic fertilizers. But, keeping in mind the usage of excreta and other types of waste used in the formation, sanitisation is equally important.

Many large-scale animal farms with more than 10,000 pigs or 5,000 cattle have been created in China over the past few decades. As a result, a lot of animal excrement is created, which, if left untreated, is significant pollution, according to Indo Pacific Centre for Strategic Communications. In fact, in China, a sizable flock of sheep were observed wandering in circles for a period of 12 days without stopping, according to several media reports. Some scientists believe the strange behaviour may be Listeriosis, also known as the “circling illness” and brought on by a bacterium.

Considering China’s propensity to keep all records of epidemics and diseases secret, it now raises concerns as to whether infected sheep corpses were used to make organic fertiliser. According to Indo Pacific Centre for Strategic Communications, additional consideration should be given to the connections between animal waste, water quality, environmental safety, human health, and risk assessment in relation to organic fertilisers.

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