Sri Lanka’s food crisis and India 


Sri Lanka is facing a severe financial crisis. Sri Lanka President Gotabaya Rajapaksa has declared a financial emergency. Its military has been entrusted with the civil rights of distributing consumer goods at the cost decided by Sri Lanka Government.

The cost of pulses and rice ranges between Rs 200-250 per kg. The main food items are being imported; therefore, a huge amount of foreign exchange is being spent on importing. Though the corona pandemic, its effect on tourism, which is the main business for Sri Lanka, hike in crude oil prices, etc. are some reasons for this food crisis. Another reason which is being talked about is that the Sri Lankan Government wants to bring the entire agricultural sector under organic farming. The Sri Lankan Government imposed restrictions in the month of May 2021 on the import of chemical fertilisers and insecticides so as to curb their increasing use.

The farmers are not happy with this decision of the Sri Lankan Government and farmers didn’t grow any crop in protest. The farmers, who did grow some crop, could get little yield in the absence of chemical fertilisers. The yield is high and quick with the use of chemical fertilisers. Though the yield is more, there are many harmful effects of using chemical fertilisers, such as the land turning barren, the effect of such fertilisers being transferred even to the crops, and creating health hazards.

It is possible to get a good yield even with organic farming. The yield is eco-friendly too, though it may not show inflated figures. Sri Lankan farmers could not get substantial produce through organic farming as they did in chemical farming, which is also stated to be one of the reasons for the food crisis.

The cost of vegetables has shot up. In the agricultural produce exported by Sri Lanka, share of tea is 10%; but production of tea was also less without the use of chemical fertilisers and its export reduced.

Rice and other grains are being imported from other countries due to a reduction in production, leading to spending huge foreign exchange. China has already over-burdened Sri Lanka with huge loans under the guise of carrying out developmental work. On the one hand, loans were taken from various countries, whereas, reduced production, Corona pandemic, Coronas effect on tourism – all together – has thrown Sri Lanka in the present critical state. Inflation has gone up so much that over 5 lakh people additionally in Sri Lanka may now be under the poverty line.

Organic farming requires a time-bound programme

The experts in Sri Lanka are saying that it was not right on the part of the Government to suddenly switch to organic farming. They are advising the Government that from chemical farming at least 3 years are required to bring Sri Lanka under organic farming. In 2008, even Bhutan declared in its plan to switch to organic farming by 2020. Bhutan has, however, not been able to achieve its goal so far, and even there, the production has reduced due to lack of chemical fertilisers; they had to increase the import of grains from other countries.

Even then, small countries such as Sri Lanka and Bhutan have at least realised the harmful effects of chemical farming, and they feel like doing something on this issue. This is commendable. They have realised what should not be used, and this much, they have told their people. The people are, however, not told what should be used to get a good yield; therefore, these countries are going through such a crisis.

Their efforts have fallen short, though their intention has been good. They don’t seem to have the techniques to get good yield with natural farming. Had they taken a decision to switch to natural farming in phases, and at the same time, trained their farmers and guided them on natural farming, Sri Lanka would have been a leader in growing healthy crops.

There is still time to gradually apply techniques to replace the use of chemical fertilisers in a time-bound programme. Sri Lanka has asked India for a loan to import food. In fact, Sri Lanka can even take guidance from India on organic farming. Indian farmers will happily join such a commendable move.

Lesson for India  

India needs to learn from this example. The use of chemical fertilisers has increased even in India with every passing year. When is a huge country such as India going to realise what the small countries such as Sri Lanka and Bhutan could realise ? India is known for natural, meaning, organic farming since the ancient times. Yet, there are farmers who use organic farming and get good yields.

We started following the westerners out of greed, and used chemical fertilisers to get more produce with lesser hard work. We, too, will have to take such hard decisions to stop the use of chemical fertilisers.

If the Sri Lanka Government can sustain such a loss so that its people get healthy food, then why should we lag behind in applying and spreading our ancient methods of farming ? The Indian Government has tried to revive our old sciences and techniques in many fields. It is also eager to do many things to bring improvement in our farming sector. Let us, therefore, hope that we too get to see some fundamental changes in our country !