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Reblogged:Top-Down Organics Doom Sri Lanka

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Back in September, I passed along word that prices for food staples in Sri Lanka had doubled in the wake of a top-down shift from the use of synthetic pesticides and fertilizers to "organic" farming methods.

Via Power Line, we have a grim update from the London Times.

Contrary to what most American outlets would do -- i.e., lazily or complicitly blame just the pandemic -- the Times notes that in that regard, Sri Lanka is fairly typical of similar countries that borrowed to industrialize and then got slammed by the consequences of the pandemic (and government responses to it).

But the Times fingers the bans as the factor that pushed Sri Lanka over the edge.

It reads in part:
The ban led to a $425 million loss to the tea industry during its first six months. (Image by Jaromír Kavan, via Unsplash, license.)
What turned Sri Lanka's economic situation from difficult to catastrophic was the decision by the Rajapaksa government to implement a nationwide ban on synthetic fertiliser. It was made not at the behest of neoliberal economists doing the bidding of global capital, but rather on the advice of environmentalists in the name of sustainable agriculture.


anning agricultural chemicals also seemingly brought a double dividend to the government. Virtually all of the products the nation's farmers relied upon were imported, so banning imports would bolster Sri Lanka's balance of trade and its currency. Moreover, because the government had long subsidised synthetic fertiliser use, the ban would also slash government spending.

But that strategy backfired in spectacular fashion. Domestic rice production fell by 14 per cent from 2021 to 2022, forcing the nation, long self-sufficient in rice production, to import hundreds of millions of dollars of rice and more than eroding all of the savings from ceasing fertiliser imports. On top of that, the ban decimated tea production, leading to a $425 million economic loss to the industry in its first six months of implementation. Tea, one of the nation's primary crops, is a key source of its total export income, making a bad foreign exchange situation far worse.

Then, in January, the government agreed to compensate rice farmers almost $400 million for their losses, along with providing additional price subsidies, which added up to more than the government had been spending annually on fertiliser subsidies.
The island nation has very quickly gone from exporting food to having to import it -- on top of the kinds of problems every other similarly-situated country is already dealing with.

In addition to the government spending more money than it saved, the rest of the piece makes it clear that Sri Lanka would be unable to meet its own "organic" fertilizer needs. "Any competent agronomist could have predicted the result. And many did."

The rest of the world has been warned.

-- CAV

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