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Chemicals needed for organic fertiliser not banned, says Treasury Secretary

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By Ifham Nizam

The government had not said that it would stop import of chemical fertiliser for industrial requirements and such imports would be allowed under licensed items, said Finance Ministry Secretary S.R. Attygalle, yesterday.

Fielding questions at the weekly briefing at the President’s Media Centre in Colombo, Attygalle said approval had been granted for importing liquid Nitrogen under import control licences, as it was needed for the production of organic fertiliser.

In response to a query over The Island story headlined “Abolition of range of taxes in Nov. 2019 triggered crisis” published in our August 2 edition, he said he would respond. However, due to time constraints he couldn’t do so.

Agriculture Ministry Secretary, Prof. Udith K. Jayasinghe-Mudalige, speaking on the sidelines of the event, told that The Island President Gotabaya Rajapaksa had taken the right decision on fertilisers.

The former Vice-Chancellor of the Wayamba University, Senior Professor and the Chair of Dept. of Agribusiness Management, Faculty of Agriculture and Plantation Management added: “We are working with all stakeholders would help us achieve the set targets.”

Chief Advisor to President, Lalith Weeratunga quoted`President Rajapaksa as saying that the decision to start using organic fertiliser had been taken for the sake of the people and future generations.

The “Vistas of Prosperity and Splendour” policy framework promised a changeover to organic fertiliser, he said.

It was the responsibility of the government to act in accordance with the pledges made to the people. Previous governments tried to popularise the use of organic fertilisers but had not been able to sustain the practice. “This is a challenging task, but it should be done on behalf of the country after identifying the correct strategy,” Weeratunga said.

Earlier this week, Finance Minister Basil Rajapaksa issued a gazette notification re-authorising the import of several types of chemical fertilisers including urea for cultivation in the forthcoming Maha season.

Licensees will be permitted to import mineral or nitrogenous mixtures including urea, ammonium nitrate with calcium carbonate or other inorganic substances, super phosphates and mineral or chemical fertilisers containing two or all three elements nitrogen, potassium and phosphorus.

The Cabinet approved the proposal made by the Minister of Agriculture on the 31st of May 2021, to import the plant nutrients which include natural chelated minerals and micro matter.

As the above natural chelated minerals and micro matter were already being imported under the HS Code, but currently prohibited by the Gazette Notification No. 2226/48, and in order to grant Cabinet approval to the aforesaid Cabinet paper submitted by the Minister of Agriculture, the Gazette Notification No. 2226/48 was amended.

The above licences also permit the import of packets of compound fertilisers containing the three plant nutrients, namely mineral or chemical nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium, or capsules containing a mixture of two of them or packets weighing 10kg or less containing such products.

All these fertilisers are allowed to be imported only by the relevant agencies as per the requirements or under special licenses issued only for limited quantities to suit those requirements.

In addition, nitrogen extracts (organic) and mineral potassium can be imported, which are not classified as chemical fertilisers.

“The government must ensure the right of the people to a non-toxic diet to produce a healthy and productive citizenry”, the Agriculture Ministry Secretary said.



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Central Bank urged to save collapsing local industries

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The National Freedom Front (NFF) has requested the immediate intervention of the Governor of the Central Bank Ajith Nivard Cabraal to save micro, small and medium scale industries badly affected by the current economic downturn caused by the Covid-19.

The NFF parliamentary group comprises six members, including one National List.

Industries Minister Wimal Weerawansa, on behalf of the SLPP constituent parties, has warned of steep increase in unemployment, drop in the contribution made by small and medium scale industries to the national economy and the further widening of the gap between the rich and poor.

Party sources told The Island that the NFF had decided to take up the urgent matter because, in spite of repeated promises, those who had been severely affected were yet to receive assistance. Minister Weerawansa has urged the Central Bank to restructure loans obtained by affected industries and also extend the moratorium.

Weerawansa has in a letter dated Oct.18, told Cabraal that according to a survey conducted by the Industrial Development Board, micro, small and medium enterprises suffered serious setbacks. However, of the loans made available through the banking sector, a substantial segment had been disbursed among major players, the Minister said, while pointing out that in other countries in the region more than 50 percent of total loans were made available to micro, small and medium industries.

Unfortunately, here in Sri Lanka they received approximately 15 percent of the total given as loans, the minister said.

Minister Weerawansa said that though industries suffered, almost all state and private banks had recorded much improved performances with significant profits.

The Minister said that following his intervention with the cabinet of ministers, the government agreed on a plan of action to deal with the situation. It would be the responsibility of the Central Bank to implement the agreed proposals, he said.

(SF)

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So far no side effects among Pfizer vaccinated 15,000 A/L students

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By Rathindra Kuruwita

Over 15,000 GCE AL students had been vaccinated with Pfizer and there had not been any side effects, Colombo District Director of Health Dr. Dilip Liyanage told the media yesterday.

He said that the Ministry of Education had given them a list of 20,688 that needed to be vaccinated.

“We would like to assure parents that there is no need to worry. Over 15,000 children have been vaccinated and there have been no problems so far. Trust the health professionals and vaccinate your child at the first opportunity you get,” he said.

Dr. Liyanage added that children who missed their chance to get vaccinated on weekdays, can get vaccinated at the MOH office near their home.

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Govt. approves prohibition of cattle slaughter

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The government has approved the prohibition of cattle slaughter. The decision was announced at the weekly Cabinet meeting at the Information Department yesterday (19). The government said the relevant laws and regulations, including those passed by Local Government authorities would be amended for that purpse.

The Legal Draftsman has drafted Bills to amend the following acts and ordinances.

• Authority 272 of the Cattle Slaughter Ordinance No. 9 of 1893

• Act No. 29 of 1958 Concerning Animals

• Municipal Councils Ordinance – Section 252

• Section 255 of the Municipal Councils Ordinance

• Ordinance No. 15 of the Urban Council Act of 1987

The Attorney General has certified that the said Bills do not clash with the provisions of the Constitution.

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