Farmers island-wide have threatened to embark on a fast-unto-death campaign if the Government decides to lift the existing ban on the agrochemical, Glyphosate, linked to the spread of the chronic kidney disease, following a proposal by Minister Navin Dissanayake for the said weedicide to be imported solely for use in the tea estates and plantations.
The Progressive Peasants Federation, with affiliations in 16 Districts, and the North Central Province Farmers Collective have already commenced conducting awareness campaigns and information gathering campaigns with farmers in towns across the island whilst also holding token fasts with durations of one to two hours.
Chairman of the Federation and Convener of the Collective, Kaudulle Jayatissa said that they would also arrive in Colombo as part of their struggle to prevent the deadly herbicide being made available locally, officially.
According to Jayatissa, 300 citizens die per day from non-communicable diseases in State hospitals including from the chronic kidney disease (CKD), for which poisons such as agrochemicals used in the dry zone play a major role as indicated by research the world over.
He added that 73% of the tea for export was produced by holders of small and medium scale tea estates and plantations (one and a half acres, two and a half acres, and 12 acres to 15 acres), generating the most foreign exchange (Rs 1,000 million) while only 26% was produced by the large scale tea estates and plantations (which generated Rs 620 million in terms of income). He alleged that Dissanayake’s proposed move was in favour of the latter. Jayatissa explained that the use of agrochemicals should be phased out gradually, adding that the country also required a national agricultural policy.
“We have faith in President Maithripala Sirisena, whose own Polonnaruwa District has been the worse hit by the CKD, and elsewhere in Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, that as responsible leaders they will not change the policy decision taken in this regard to keep Glyphosate banned, merely because one or two Ministers request that such be overturned in a limited manner. The mother company of Glyphosate, Monsanto and business folk must not be allowed to prevail,” he emphasized.
Meanwhile, the All Ceylon Peasants Federation (ACPF) pointed out that while the Glyphosate ban should continue, it was the Government’s responsibility to provide safe alternatives.
National Organizer of the Federation, Namal Karunaratne explained that the cost of production in relation to fruits and vegetables was high, adding that farmers faced the issue of finding a correct sale price for their harvest and produce.