Sri Lanka’s national average rice yield hit a nearly 50-year-low last ‘Maha’ season largely driven by the ill-conceived import ban on chemical fertiliser and agrochemicals.
Its aftereffects combined with skyrocketed input prices may continue to overshadow rice production throughout next year.
According to official data published by the Department of Census and Statistics (DCS), the average paddy yield during 2021/2022 Maha season was sharply down by 33.76 percent over the 2020/2021 Maha season.
While paddy crop was harvested in a record area of 766,000 hectares during the last Maha season, the harvest plunged to the lowest levels seen since the drought-affected 2016/17 Maha season. The paddy output was down by 37 percent to 1.93 million tonnes over the previous Maha period.
Former President Gotabaya Rajapaska in May last year imposed a ban on import of agrochemicals including chemical fertilisers and pesticides rushing to transform the country’s agricultural sector into exclusive organic agriculture (EOA).
However, the ban was reversed in November last year amid farmer protests as the government failed to provide alternative inputs.
Although, the Department of Agriculture recommended the use of a ratio of about 70 percent synthetic fertiliser and 30 percent organic fertiliser in an integrated fertiliser production management scheme to gain the best possible output, the DCS data showed that a mixture of fertilisers was applied on 61 percent of the paddy cultivations in the period.