New Delhi: In the season of playing the assertive diplomacy and tougher trade norms, Sri Lanka halted a 96,000-tonne shipment of fertiliser from China on Wednesday (September 29), citing quality issues.
The 'ban' on importing organic fertilisers manufactured in China came after the country's agriculture authorities detected harmful bacteria in them. The Directorate-General (DG) of Agriculture urged the Sri Lankan government to cancel the fertiliser contract with China.
Sri Lanka was to import 99,000 metric tonnes of organic fertiliser at the cost of $63 million from China's Qingdao Seawin Biotech Group Co Ltd. "When we tested the fertiliser samples sent by the Chinese supplier, we found in them bacteria that is harmful to the soil," said a statement from Agriculture Minister Mahindananda Aluthgamage, according to media reports. Officials said the cargo was ready to be shipped to Sri Lanka when the government decided to cancel the order, worth an estimated $42 million.
President Gotabaya Rajapaksa came to power in 2019 promising subsidised foreign fertiliser.
There was also speculation whether the ban was linked to foreign exchange shortage. The government has denied the charge, and that it is committed to healthier agriculture.
Of course, according to a report in Jakarta Post, there have been recent halts to imports of vehicles and spare parts. The report said that farmers of rice- the main foreign exchange-earning export commodity, along with tea-have warned crops could be halved without chemicals.
Interestingly, unlike the recent past, China is seen these days by Sri Lankans not only as a development assistance partner but also as a competitor with trade, industrial and human resources interests. There are elements in Sri Lanka who say that the Chinese having 'controlling stakes' in some major projects reminded them of the Cuban missile crisis.
In 2018, China made Sri Lanka lease out the Hambantota port, miles off the shores of its rival India, and a critical base to monitor the Indo-Pacific trade route.
The island nation had leased the port for 99 years to a venture led by China Merchants Port Holdings Co. in return for $1.1 billion.
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