Sunday, October 5, 2014

Exploring the Possibility of Exporting Organic Agricultural Products

By Upul Weerawardana
Organic production has considerable potential in our agriculture sector in Sri Lanka. However, the term organic has been widely misused in Sri Lanka without having very clear understanding about it. Ecological farming systems, applying compost on crops, natural home garden practices, neglecting lands without applying natural and artificial inputs cannot be defined or termed as organic. Organic chemistry has no direct relationship with organic agriculture. Organic is a kind of labeling system that is granted for ecological production when the whole process is certified by an accredited third party organization.
Economy of our country is mainly based on agriculture. We have a higher degree of biodiversity among most of the developing countries and we are blessed with nature gifted most suitable climatic conditions for having sustainable natural agriculture systems. The agriculture practices that have been carried out for many years with indigenous knowledge of our traditional farmers have contributed tremendously for the development of sustainable agriculture in Sri Lanka. Many well balanced eco systems including the Kandyan forest garden system play major role in protecting environment and maintain biodiversity in many parts of our beautiful island. Once these ecological farming practices are tuned to follow an efficient management system, such lands can be inspected and certified as organic according to international standards with shorter period of in-conversion at a lower cost. Without a third party guarantee on the compliance of set international standards on organic production methods, a product cannot be labelled, termed or called as organic.
Sri Lanka is an Island it has great history of traditional farming production. Rice production is primary form of agriculture in Sri Lanka. In addition Sri Lanka has most fruit verities, vegitable and others.
Especially Sri Lanka has suitable climate for the tropical farming production. So that the country has popular name of the world famous. Such as in the ancient country was world famous as Spicy Island , perediga dannyagareya ect… After colonizing era Sri Lanka becoming world popular as Ceylon tea, Ceylon rubber, Ceylon coconuts so on. On the other hand geographically specializing in the country as called as Nawela Annasi,Kotte Pani dhodam,Malwane pani rabutan,kaluthera mangus ect.…
Against Sri Lanka able to develop new world famous name is call as organic Island
I discuss all above are pass in Sri Lanka and its combination with agriculture system. Presently in Sri Lanka there is no popular name like this. No any farming production most popular in world wide. The problem is the farmers used more agro chemical and fertilizer. Therefore the agriculture production is not quality but quantity is very high. And also seed are not natural or not traditional.
In Sri Lanka 95% farmers used high genetic seeds. Modern fertilizer consists of varying amounts of nitrogen (N), phosphorus (P) and potassium (K). These three are believed to be essential for plants to grow, and are extracted from the soil with each harvest.
This is why farmers spread fertilizer on their fields, to replace the nutrients lost. It’s certainly not the ideal and sustainable way to farm, but it’s thought to be the most efficient for large-scale farms. Strategies like crop rotation and allowing large fields to rest would cut too deep into profits that are based on quantity, opposed to quality.

As I earlier mention, Sri Lanka is a situated in as an Island it can protect effect from several artificial agro chemical. The Government should have make rules and regulation for restriction to come agrarian artificial chemical application. So we haven’t any road access to the country from  rest of the world .therefore the country can abandon come to inside of the agro chemical. Our traditional farmer they certified if do not used any artificial for the field, they can take good harvest. This chemical industry is  more and more mafia in the world. Because of the chemical marketing is most profitable business.
Earlier in Sri Lanka the farmer they did not apply artificial fertilizer. They used totally natural Organic materials for their fields. Therefore the farming production is high quality, high nutrias, and high savory. The organic agriculture movement in Sri Lanka has lead to develop 25,300 hectares of land under organic production.
In Sri Lanka 33% of total employment are engaging in Agriculture sector, but it is contribute to the GDP 11.1% , why is that , the agriculture production is not focus to the world required. Not only world , but in Sri Lanka highly demand for the organic agriculture production. For example 1 kg of normal rice in market Rs 60-95 but totally organic rice price is Rs 190-300. Other organic vegetable, fruit price are also same high price. Therefore we should be changing our system of farming. On the other hand the chemical food most bade effect to the human body.  Therefore annually the government spent more money for the non communicable diseases. Specially kidney diseases.
Sri Lanka as a country with full of natural resources has a big potential to fulfil the considerable portion of ever-growing market demand for organic products in the World. Our capacity in supplying various products already grown under ecological systems for years after the conversion within shorter period of time is very high. The value addition of tea from year 1998 to 2001 purely due to the organic labelling is equivalent to the additional production of about one million kgs of conventional teas. This is definitely an encouraging indication to any Government to support Organic Sector. This target has been achieved by few organic companies with their individual effort made for many years. The Export Development Board of Sri Lanka has immensely assisted to promote organic sector in Sri Lanka by assisting the private sector to seek new markets for organic products. Some of the other Government institutes have recently launched programmes to identify the potential areas and producer groups for organic agriculture.
Other than this direct financial benefit gained from organic exports, the protection of environment has become a major indirect contributory factor of organic agriculture. The favourable influence of organic agriculture on environment protection and human health on long-term basis has not yet been scientifically evaluated in order to add economic value to organic products. Water resources and tanks are contaminated with higher level of heavy metals and Nitrates that has already created serious health problem to our community and it will continue. Government spends huge amount on subsidy of chemical fertilizers from one side and bear huge cost on health care from the other side. Disposal of litter from large scale animal husbandry units has become a costly and troublesome affair and the same litter can be easily converted to nitrogen-rich soil input and that could replace imported synthetic nitrogen fertilizers resulting in saving some foreign exchange to our country. The same can also be used in organic production when the conversion is done according to organic standards. However extreme care must be taken to prevent the contamination of heavy metal and clinical waste when urban waste is converted as soil inputs for the use in conventional agriculture. The relationship between artificial chemical usage in agriculture on the increase number of kidney patients and other health related problems in many areas has become an interesting topic to be researched.
Contribution from academics, researchers, scientist and other professionals in the respective fields has become essential in order to educate producers and consumers about the negative impact of usage of hazardous chemicals in incorrect manner during farming and processing on human health. This will anyway help to reduce the damages done for farming community in the long run. The investment required in the future to clean our soil and water resources will be very significant. Environment polluted by us today for our short term benefit will have to be restored by our next generation at their cost for their survival in the future. Therefore it is logical that the cost for cleaning the environment needed in the future has to be added to the cost of conventional production.
Promotion of organic agriculture minimizes the health problems and also results in no capital investment to clean the environment. In addition, possibilities are there for our conventional products exported to developed countries to get rejected as the maximum residue limits (MRL) and heavy metal contamination in food are higher than those of ever-reducing allowable levels in the importing countries as a result of unmethodical and heavy chemical application.
Organic labeling needs international certification for Sri Lankan products. However, the cost of international inspection attributes extra overhead cost to the cost of production and therefore measures taken to reduce COP have become a necessity. Government direct involvement in setting up a mechanism to promote organic agriculture has become a compulsory issue in order to safeguard the interest of exporters who are involved in an internationally competitive organic trade as well as the producers in the organic sector. A long-term professional approach will help to generate more foreign exchange while our environment is being protected. This will also lead to maintain a sustainable development of the rural sector in Sri Lanka.
It is important that an institute to promote organic agriculture be established with the contribution of all stakeholders in the organic field. Government involvement is more important in making policy and finding a most suitable mechanism to implement them.
Some of the main activities listed there, are setting up local certification procedures under third country registry, policy making & implementation, registration of Inspection Bodies, registration of exporters and local parties involved in organic sales, issuance of renewable permit for local sales, penalizing fraudulent sellers, introducing a common seal for certified organic products in Sri Lanka, rendering assistance to organic & health shops, rendering assistance from media to promote organic export, setting up of Internal Control System for local inspection, register all training institutes and setting up organic export villages. However it is evident that some of the above activities have been already started separately by different institutions.
It is also imperative to draw up a plan for Sri Lanka to get the recognition and equivalent status for local certification or to enter into the Third Country Registry enabling local inspection bodies to certify products as organic which will be accepted by any international community.
For that, initially the guidelines or basic standards on organic production need to be set by a standard committee and then based on basic guidelines, the country regulation for organic production has to be established by a Government Standard setting institute. Qualified private organizations must set their own standards adhering to country regulation that are accepted by a quality management system for organic inspection and certification.
Training inspectors on organic standards has become compulsory when organic standards are set only. Generic training can be done by many institutes but standards-specific training needed for internationally accepted inspection system cannot be handled without the support of professionals.
Changing basic standards that leads to regulation changes in the country needs to be handled by group of experts officially nominated as the members of the standard committee by the organic promotion institute or regulatory institute. However, the adhering to the sequence of operation or procedures is very important in order to respect international standards and to gain the international recognition for our local inspection & certifications. It is clearly seen that many events happens today without much professional guidance and this will not lead to achieve our country goals in setting local bodies for the same.
Once all aspects fall in line it will result in eliminating higher cost of inspection and certification carried out by international inspection bodies. The present situation has curtailed the development of organic agriculture among small farmer groups in the rural areas in Sri Lanka. Recognized local certification system will also enable our producers and exporters to offer organic products at competitive prices in international markets. The main benefit from lower certification cost could be transferred to the farming community by giving them reasonable higher prices against conventional market prices along with the forward contracts.
In addition to these aspects, organic food production for local market will result in generating a healthier community in Sri Lanka. Immediate regulation should be imposed to monitor the products sold under the term of organic in order to protect the credibility of genuine organic producers and to safeguard the interest of organic consumers. Therefore, the Government of Sri Lanka should take the initiative like our neighboring countries for the promotion of organic agriculture in Sri Lanka.

Sri Lanka able to develop new world famous name is call as organic Island


  1. Mr.Upul I will agree with you without doubt because of using chemical fertilizer is a huge threat in our country. In our history we have no experience in this regard. Therefore we must think to use organic manure for our cultivation. This will be a barrier for the large scale farming which is profit oriented basis. However if we can concentrate on the organic manure, we will be able to overcome this barrier. As you mentioned in your article, this will open the path to enrich the economy of our country.

    Manjula Rajapaksha (MDS/2014/2015/15)

  2. As this nicely written article is also related to both agriculture and health sectors, I would like to add the WHO recommendations to battle against Chronic Kidney Disease of unknown aetiology (CKDu).
    • Strengthen the regulatory framework to improve quality control of imported fertilizer (eg. cadmium, arsenic and lead levels in phosphate fertilizer and curtail the indiscriminate use of synthetic fertilizer)

    • Regulate the quality of imported pesticides/weedicides to prevent contamination of the environment with heavy metals.

    • Ban the use of diazinon, propanil, paraquat, chlorpyriphos and carbaryl which have been shown to be nephrotoxic in animal experiments.

    These recommendations clearly show the importance of organic agriculture policy implemented asap.

    - Sumudu Hewawasam (MDS/2014/16)

  3. Food safety is defined as taking precautions and complying with necessary rules during production, processing, storage and delivering stage of food in order to provide healthy and precise food production.
    Therefore the idea of an organic farm as an alternative for the industrial and genetically modified crops is very ideal. It would contribute to the lessening of air, soil and water pollution and maximizes the health of the interdependent communities of plants, animals and humans.


    MDS 18

  4. Beside of what Upul has mentioned, I would also like to highlight some issues of this area. Though we discuss the advantages of using organic agriculture products, still farmer’s attempts on these practices are considerably very low. The problem is with usability of organic fertilizer by farmers. Some of environmental friendly and healthy applications such as Ecological sanitation, organic fertilizing, reduce/ reuse and recycle concepts are not practising considerably by user groups In Sri Lanka. User motivations on these practices are very low and however sizeable numbers of farmers are not practising it. Exact reason behind not use of these methods is still not identified. So I think a comprehensive investigation on reasons behind not use is to be carried out to find out problem in user/farmer perspective. What are the challenges of using, what they are lacking to be sold out and the areas need to improve and the method for motivation and encouragement also to be identified at first. In other hand, the most famous question coming from farmers is that ‘Can organic farmers produce enough food to meet the demand?’ Community based research studies can be employed to provide answers to these questions. Farmers to be aware on where they can get Information about consumption and prices of organic commodities, information on organic agriculture methods and management systems, what are the environmental benefits of those products, why organic food are more expensive than conventional Food. Also responsible authorities should aware them on the demand coming from internationally and the real benefits behind exports of these items as well.

    MDS – 20 (2014/2015)

  5. Sri Lanka's agriculture is yet more in traditional phases because comparatively to countries like Chaina, our agriculture sector is limited to cultivation & production but has not exposed much to agro based processing/industries which can be make more benefit by value additions and exporting. Other than private agro based industries like CIS Agri,etc. most of individual farmers have not even thinking about it. Therefore, private firms who engaged in agro based processing, values additions and trade of tertiary productions can play a vital role in commencing organic agriculture products. Availability of any kind of economic help for commencement or conversion into organic agriculture is only matters when it is going to implement within ordinary farmers. So initiation and contribution of private companies will be very important here with parallel to other solutions that Mr. Upul mentioned in the article.

    We are not considering the cost of all inputs that are taking for agriculture production in determining value of our goods. But most of the developed countries have incorporated a certain value to the agriculture inputs such as water “virtual water” but we give everything free. Like water, we have to incur certain cost into organic agriculture products for the usage of organic fertilizer and can be increase the value of these products ultimately. A strategic policy change is required to implement that kind of initiations. Also we have to encourage farmers jointly with government and private companies to use organic labels, Certified Organic Products more to expand the exports of organic products.

    MSD - 10

  6. This article reflects a timely and important issue in Sri Lanka.

    Organic farming assures not only safeguarded health and environment, but also sustainable economic benefits, when the recovery costs of negative externalities of inorganic food are taken into consideration. Low productivity of labor with kidney and other food related diseases, health costs and water purification costs are few of such negative products of inorganic farming.

    However, to produce a good yield at par with inorganic mechanisms, farmers should be trained well in organic fertilizer usage. For instance, farmers should be trained extensively to use the exact proportion of each ingredient in producing compost fertilizer. If not the effectiveness of compost fertilizer will be lost and the yield will be less. Therefore, responsible parties should take measures to train farmers in organic agricultural mechanisms.

    Marian Fernando
    MDS 28

  7. Many farmers choose to use chemicals to keep weeds and pests from destroying their crops and to add more nutrients to the soil. There are three different kinds of pesticides; herbicides, insecticides and fungicides.

    Those pesticides are dangerous to the environment as well as they are also hazardous to a person's health. Pesticides have been linked to cancer, Alzheimer's Disease, ADHD, and even birth defects. Pesticides also have the potential to harm the nervous system, the reproductive system, and the endocrine system. Pesticides can even be very harmful to fetuses because the chemicals can pass from the mother during pregnancy or if a woman nurses her child.
    Therefore, if we can promote organic agriculture products, our future generation will safe from pesticide illnesses.


  8. The discussion is timely valued undoubtedly. It's very big problem we are facing today, We hear lot of diseases relating organic fertilizers and seeds. such as kidney disease, asanic infectious diseases. After the policy of free trade policy in 1977, we could import seeds and fertilizers from overseas. Those gave instant and accelerated harvest but not suitable for outlives and health.
    But in the past we have natural fertlizer and seeds.

    m.R.S. Silva( MDS/2014/23)

  9. Now-a-days we do hear lots of diseases what we haven’t heard in the past and those are the absolute results of this type of poisonous foods which are artificial grown. We must pay due care with this regard in order to eliminate the threat of losing valuable lives. Making people to grow their vegetables and fruits in their own gardens using homemade fertilizer is the best option which can reduce the environment pollution ( by making homemade fertilizer) and mainly reduce the risk of consuming poisonous foods. But this matters whether everyone owns a land to cultivate??
    Sandunika Lekamwasam
    MDS (2014/2015) No. 17

  10. Upul discussed many important areas of organic fertilizer & Organic Agriculture in Sri lanka. You mentioned some Opportunities & must be spread in island wide as a new culture. Totally I agree with your ideas. But I think if you observe following areas to feed your article, It may be more valuable.
     Srilankan government is spending arround Rs. mn. 38,000 annually for fertilizer welfare programme. Otherwise, only Rs. mn. 300 allocate annually to promote Organic Fertilizer through ministry of Agriculture. I can’t imagine what is the government policy about that.
     Sri lankan farmers are normally using fertilizer, without soil testing. They are thinking fertilizer is compolsary for their cultivation. Otherwise they have no opportunity or place for soil testing. Unfortunately, Ministry of Agriculture or Department of Agriculture don’t think about that. They must do best extension service with facilities. I believe if all srilankan farmers use the fertilizer, after the soil test, we can reduce 40% percent of present fertilizer usage.
     Productivity is another important topic in Agriculture sector. If All farmers are doing organic Agriculture, it makes another problem. Cultivate using only using organic manner, production (yeild) is go to decline. Population are increasing, Demand of food are increasing, Agricultural lands are decreasing. How to achieve Food Security ?
     Research & development is very important to promote Organic Agriculture. We must find good crop variety with less using fertilizer & chemicals but with good production.

    Sisira Ekanayaka

  11. Now a days many countries talking about organic farming because of the rising number of diseases in kidneys and etc. due to the heavy metallic compounds found in chemical fertilizer and pesticides and the rising prices of the chemical fertilizer. So it is the best to convert from chemical to organic cultivation just like in the past era. According to the survey conducted by Sri Lanka Nature Forum revealed that in 2008 there were 25335.03 hectares of organic agriculture under the total land occupied. It is 1.08% of total cultivated land which is not enough. So the government could change their policies other than give subsidies for fertilizer that will increase the contemporary cultivation.
    M.J. Fernando
    MDS/ 12