Where a push to become world's first 100% organic farming nation has led to catastrophe

The green agenda often backfires when governments embrace it either as a means of placating militant environmentalists or as a half-assed attempt to take a shortcut to some sort of utopian future where evil petrochemicals are no longer being used.  We see plenty of examples of the former, where Americans are paying far more at the gas pump because Biden shut down the Keystone Pipeline and is hobbling domestic oil and gas production, and where Germans are shivering and electricity prices are soaring because coal and nuclear power plants have been shut down.

But the latter path also carries disaster in its wake, as Sri Lanka has discovered.  Al Jazeera reports:

President Gotabaya Rajapaksa had imposed a total ban on agrochemicals in May [2021], saying he wanted to make Sri Lankan farming 100 percent organic.

That announcement was putting lipstick on a pig — a financial crisis.

Agricultural chemicals such as fertiliser were among the imports banned last year as authorities tried to save dwindling foreign currency reserves.

But it turns out that organic farming is not something that one can flip a switch to accomplish.  It takes a lot of preparation and work to make it succeed, including knowledge and skill, which ordinary farmers, directed from above, may not have and may not be interested in acquiring.  I am not against organic farming, but I appreciate the care and effort that are necessary to make it work.  And even in the best of hands, yields often fall.  That's why organic vegetables cost more.

So, as was predictable:

The government will pay 40,000 million rupees ($200m) to farmers whose harvests were affected by the chemical fertiliser ban, agriculture minister Mahindananda Aluthgamage said on Tuesday.

"We are providing compensation to rice farmers whose crops were destroyed," he told reporters. "We will also compensate those whose yields suffered without proper fertiliser."

The government will spend another $149m on a price subsidy for rice farmers, he added.

About a third of Sri Lanka's agricultural land was left dormant last year because of the import ban.

The restrictions also led to angry protests from farmers, an important political constituency of President Gotabaya Rajapaksa.

Paddy field in Sammanthurai, Ampara, Sri Lanka.
Photo credit: Anton CroosCC BY-SA 3.0 license.

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