Farmers in Sri Lanka protest fertilizer ban

Thousands of farmers have been taking to the streets of Sri Lanka for weeks to protest a ban on imports of chemical fertilizer.

The Sri Lankan government wants to move towards 100% organic agriculture as they say it's more sustainable and better for the environment.

But many farmers argue the policy will hurt the industry, and severely harm the country's food security.

Some farmers have carried coffins marked with a sign reading 'the death of farming' and burnt effigies of the agriculture minister.

Others say they have not had time to prepare.

"Today we should be in the fields preparing our land. Instead we are being forced to take to the streets because of a fertiliser issue. First we were told to make our own carbonic fertiliser but we don't have the resources for that."

Nearly two thirds of Sri Lanka's population are dependent on agriculture and the sector accounts for 7% of GDP.

Early monsoon season usually marks the start of planting for rice farmers across the country.

But this year, many are planting less than usual as they wait for government assistance on how to shift to organic farming.

That reduced planting could bring down Sri Lanka's annual paddy yield by about 40%, according to a prominent agricultural economist and a farmers' association.

The Agriculture Ministry has acknowledged the shift to organic farming has been shaky but insists that the policy has the support of various sectors of society.

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