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Sri Lanka heeds protests, lifts ban on agrochemical imports

Sri Lanka heeds protests, lifts ban on agrochemical imports

COLOMBO, Sri Lanka (AP) — Sri Lanka's government has withdrawn a ban on imports of agrochemicals that it said was aimed at encouraging organic cultivation.

Agriculture Minister Mahindananda Aluthgamage announced on Wednesday the revocation of the ban, which took effect in April. But he said government subsidies, price guarantees for produce and technical support will only be provided to those who use organic fertilizer.

The ban, which many analysts said was more an effort to preserve Sri Lanka's scarce foreign reserves, drew months of protests, with farmers saying they were in danger of crop failures and poverty.

Tea growers complained that the famous Ceylon Tea brand was at risk if yields fell, creating more opportunities for competitors.

Agriculturists said that while organic farming was a welcome approach, the shift away from chemicals should be gradual to avoid food shortages.

Sri Lanka’s foreign reserves dwindled to just two months' worth of imports in August and its rupee currency depreciated 7.4% against the dollar in the first eight months of the year, according to the World Bank.