June 18, Colombo: The Sri Lankan government is considering relaxing the ban on the glyphosate, a widely-used weedicide, to boost the dwindling tea crop.
Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena in 2015 banned the imports of glyphosate as some studies have linked the use of the agrochemical to the Chronic Kidney Disease affecting the Sri Lankan farmers.
However, in the face of devastating crop losses in excess of an estimated Rs. 15 billion in 2016 due to the overgrowing weeds, the Planters Association of Ceylon (PA) pleaded with the Government to immediately provide a rational, and effective solution to the management of chemical weeding in the estate sector in a commercially viable manner.
The Planters Association pointed out that the overgrowth of weeds in the estates makes it more difficult for the tea pluckers to traverse one section of the plantation to another and harvest and maintain the tea bushes.
The association stressed that the glyphosate ban is totally counter-productive and called on the policy makers to immediately provide a clear, rational alternative.
In November 2016, the Cabinet appointed a committee to review the import ban on the herbicide and the committee has submitted their recommendations to the Plantation Minister Naveen Dissanayake.
The cabinet-appointed committee has recommended that the plantations industry should be allowed to import the weed killer under carefully controlled and supervised conditions, according to a report in the Sunday Observer.
Following their investigations, the committee has recommended a six-step scheme and has requested the Ministers of Plantation Industries and Agriculture to report to Cabinet on the operation and effectiveness of this scheme within six months,
The committee recommends the Registrar of Pesticides to permit the imports of glyphosate subject to all stocks of this herbicide being stored only in the warehouses of licensed importers and the Tea Small Holdings Development Authority under the direct supervision of the Registrar of Pesticides.
Minister Dissanayake reportedly, had discussions with the President and the Prime Minister and is expected to present a cabinet paper to relax the ban shortly.