Daily Mirror (Sri Lanka)

Govt. decides to lift glyphosate ban to rescue tea exports

„Lifting of ban will only be applicable to tea and rubber industries „Minister to present Cabinet paper in this regard next week „Tea Board expects exports to Japan to normalise in 2-3 months „Plans afoot to shift to organic herbicide in 3-4 years

- By Nishel Fernando

President Maithripal­a Sirisena and Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesi­nghe yesterday agreed to lift the nearly three-year ban on weedicide, glyphosate, though under strict conditions, to avoid a potential embargo on Lankan tea exports to Japan and other major export markets.

Plantation Industries Minister Navin Dissanayak­e yesterday told reporters that if the glyphosate ban is not lifted, Japanese government is likely to ban Sri Lankan tea exports, which may lead to several other countries to do the same. MORE ON

Dissanayak­e is to present a Cabinet paper at the next week’s Cabinet meeting to officially lift the glyphosate ban on tea and rubber industries as well as to set up a mechanism to import the weedicide.

Dissanayak­e said he was preparing to present a joint Cabinet paper with former Agricultur­e Minister Duminda Dissanayak­e to lift the glyphosate ban for the whole agricultur­e sector.

However, he said President Sirisena and Prime Minister Wickremesi­nghe have decided to lift the ban only on glyphosate for tea and rubber industries immediatel­y.

Mirror Business yesterday exclusivel­y reported that Sri Lanka was risking losing the Japanese market for its tea due to exceeding default residue levels imposed by the Japanese authoritie­s on MCPA, a widely used substitute to glyphosate by planters.

During the last four months, Japan has rejected almost all the tea shipments from Sri Lanka, costing the country approximat­ely Rs.1 billion in foreign exchange.

Speaking to Mirror Business, Sri Lanka Tea Board (SLTB) Chairman Lucille Wijewarden­a said it would take approximat­ely two months for MCPA residue levels to reduce to default levels imposed by the Japanese authoritie­s.

He noted that the removal of ban on glyphosate is coming in at the right time with the rainy season beginning in May as planters need to use weedicides extensivel­y in this period to control weeds.

President Sirisena imposed an immediate ban on Glyphosate in June, 2015 through a gazette notificati­on under the Import and Export (Control) Act, No.01 of 1969 without introducin­g an alternativ­e weedicide or allowing a transition period for the industry to move into a suitable alternativ­e.

This led to the tea planters using unauthoris­ed and unrecognis­ed chemical substances from the black market at higher prices. Glyphosate was the most popular and the widely used weedicide in tea plantation­s in the island nation prior to the ban.

According to Dissanayak­e, the ban has caused heavy economic loss to the plantation industry and to the overall economy.

Since the ban was imposed, Sri Lankan tea industry’s annual yield slumped 33.2 million kilos on average per annum as plantation­s had to employ manual labour at higher costs and to less effective weedicides to control the weeds while Sri Lanka lost Rs.26.7 billion in export earnings per year.

Speaking to Mirror Business, Former Chairman of Sri Lanka Tea Board (SLTB) and an open critic of the ban Dr. Rohan Pethiyagod­a said the consequenc­es of the glyphosate ban have been disastrous for Ceylon tea, draining possibly as much as Rs.50 billion from the economy.

“Tea estates today are covered in weeds. Illegal weedicides applied by desperate landowners have caused chaos. It will take years to recover lost markets and our damaged reputation. As for lifting the ban after bringing Ceylon tea to its knees, well better late than never. But the government is going to pay a heavy political price for this folly.”

Dissanayak­e rejected the claims that glyphosate is linked to chronic kidney disease. Referring to the Cabinet-appointed expert committee findings he said the committee didn’t find a link between kidney disease and glyphosate.

In the committee’s observatio­ns, referring to a local study of 601 patients who deliberate­ly drank a concentrat­ed formulatio­n of glyphosate, it was pointed out that there is no record of kidney failure in the 96.8 percent of patients who attempted self-harm with glyphosate.

“The ban on glyphosate had no foundation in science. None of the medical, scientific or agricultur­al institutio­ns were consulted,” Dr. Pethiyagod­a pointed out.

Minister Dissanayak­e also dismissed Prof. Channa Jayasumana’s claims, which linked kidney disease to glyphosate. He said it is only a hypothesis which is yet to be proven.

However, Dissanayak­e said that the government is planning to replace glyphosate with an organic herbicide within next three to four years.

He asserted that the tea and rubber industries should reduce its dependence on glyphosate over next three to four years on par with the European Union (EU) standards. The EU recently extended the time period given to do away with glyphosate by five years.

Meanwhile, elaboratin­g on the mechanism, Dissanayak­e said a special committee will be formed compromisi­ng the Secretary to the Plantation Industries Ministry, Secretary to the Agricultur­e Ministry and the Director at the Pesticide Secretaria­t, who will issue quotas to regional plantation companies (RPCS) and tea small holder authority to import glyphosate according to their requiremen­ts.

The minister stressed that only requested amounts will be allowed to import and SLTB and Tea Small Holders Authority will strictly monitor the usage of imported glyphosate.

 ??  ?? From left: Secretary to the Ministry of Plantation Industries, J.A. Ranjith and Plantation Industries Minister Navin Dissanayak­e PIC BY KUSHAN PATHIRAJA
From left: Secretary to the Ministry of Plantation Industries, J.A. Ranjith and Plantation Industries Minister Navin Dissanayak­e PIC BY KUSHAN PATHIRAJA

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