‘Chinese fertiliser ship worse than a nuclear bomb’

Colombo, Nov 14 (IANS) While twice rejected bacteria-infected Chinese fertiliser ship has created diplomatic tussle between Sri Lanka and China, agriculture rights activists in the island nation have charged that the vessel with so-called organic fertiliser is worse than a ‘nuclear bomb’.
Namal Karunaratne, National Organiser of the All Ceylon Farmers Federation complained that once mixed with the local soil, the spread of bacteria contained in the Chinese organic fertiliser in question could not be stopped and neither bacterium could be destroyed.
“You can at least see the nuclear bomb but you cannot see the harmful bacteria,” the activists demanded.
“Nuclear bomb can be defused before it blasts but how can bacteria infected soil be cured. If this fertiliser entered the island nation it would be much worse than the coronavirus pandemic and we could never be able to get rid of the bad effects of it,” Karunaratne added.
He also warned that the government should not stand by a Chinese company as the National Plant Quarantine Service (NPQS) which comprised of experts in the subject is an independent institution in the country.
In September, the NPQS has twice rejected Chinese vessel ‘Hippo Spirit’ which had arrived at Sri Lanka carrying 20,000 metric tonnes of organic fertiliser.
The consignment was a part of the 99,000 metric tonnes of organic fertiliser cost at nearly $5 million.
The government had planned to import $63 million worth of fertiliser from China’s Qingdao Seawin Biotech Group Co., Ltd.
With plans to go fully organic, the island nation had banned the use of chemical fertiliser and was promoting the organic farming. But agitated farmers had taken to the streets demanding fertiliser from the government for major paddy harvesting season.
On September 17 agriculture scientists found that China manufactured organic fertiliser contained a harmful microorganism identified as ‘Erwinia’.
However, China was forcing Sri Lankan authorities to pay for the organic fertiliser but the Sri Lankan court had imposed a temporary order not to make any payment to the Chinese fertiliser company.
In reply, China had immediately blacklisted one of Sri Lanka’s oldest state banks, through which the transaction was to take place.
Meanwhile, on Sunday, Chinese Ambassador in Sri Lanka Qi Zhenhong told media that the government has agreed to test the fertiliser sampled by the third party.
However, Agriculture Ministry Secretary Prof. Udith K. Jayasinghe has said that the decision not to go to a third party for testing has not changed.
A number of agricultural academic organisations have protested against China’s fertiliser ship and had claimed it would have a long term consequences on country’s soil.
Over the last two month, the fertiliser vessel has been hovering around western seas off Sri Lanka at times switching off the Automatic Identification System (AIS), hiding ship’s location.

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