Sunday, March 3, 2024

Sri Lanka shows how not to go organic

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There’s a lesson for NZ, where there’s no shortage of elitist greenies giving advice.
Rice production in paddies like this one in Ampara, Sri Lanka, fell 20% after the organic fertiliser edict, sending the price soaring.
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In Australia there has been considerable media coverage on the crisis in Sri Lanka and its causes. Strangely, that coverage hasn’t been replicated in New Zealand. 

Basically the country has gone from one of relative prosperity to near bankruptcy in less than three years. It’s a basket case.

The reason for the crisis? They went organic.

Immediately after the 2019 Sri Lankan elections the new prime minister, Mahinda Rajapaksa, outlined his 10-year vision for a transition to organic agriculture. 

It was believed the PM “fell under the spell of Western green elites peddling organic agriculture and ESG”. 

We hear a lot about ESG in NZ. It means meeting higher environmental, social and governance criteria.

So successful was Sri Lanka’s move into ESG, it was awarded the near perfect score of 98%. 

It was followed by Finland at 89% and the United States at 51%. 

The Dutch investment company Robeco puts NZ at 85%, which is highly creditable. We don’t want the same status as Sri Lanka.

What happened following the Rajapaksa green vision of 2019 was a total ban on artificial fertilisers and all pesticides. 

The immediate result was it took just two short years to make a third of Sri Lankan farms dormant.

The reason simply was that organic farming was more costly and its yields were lower than those of conventional practices. 

Rice production immediately fell 20%, with a resultant price rise of 50%. 

The country had been self-sufficient in rice. It now has to import the product to the value of $US450 million (about $706m).

The Sri Lankan tea industry, a major export earner, lost a massive $US425m between June 21 and April 22.

In one region where the majority of farms are around 1ha, families reported a 50%-60% reduction in their harvest.

That was all because the country went organic as some would like to happen here.

The result of all the organic chicanery was the economy became an economic basket case followed by a breakdown in civil order. The prime minister has since fled the country.

The debt to GDP ratio was just 86.9% in 2019 before the country became organic. It went to 105.6% in 2021. 

The country is so broke, it has to ration imports. What that achieved was a rationing of petrol, which resulted in, among other problems, long power cuts. 

What that meant was that the tourism industry, which was responsible for 12% of GDP, effectively vanished.

There were obviously other factors involved in the Sri Lankan crisis and they included covid and the Ukraine war. 

It was, however, a sudden lurch into organics that was the major reason for the crisis and that crisis was because the country “fell under the spell of Western green elites”.

We need to be extremely careful we don’t contemplate the same insanity.

As I said at the start, the Sri Lankan saga has created major media interest in the international media. That it’s hardly created a whisper in NZ is an indictment.

The issue for me is the Western green elites’ advice to Sri Lanka, which centred on the World Economic Forum (WEF). 

The Sri Lankan president, Mahinda’s brother Gotabaya Rajapaksa, said he’d make his country “rich by 2025” partly by adopting WEF-sponsored “climate change initiatives”. The other green elite in an advisory role was the Rockefeller Foundation.

Go to the WEF and you have CEOs (Siemens, Nestle, European Central Bank, Blackrock), the World Trade Organisation and the International Red Cross,  and politicians including Al Gore and representatives from Canada and Singapore, among others. 

As we know, the WEF is never backward about giving advice and opinions. 

In this case it offered advice that was enthusiastically adopted and a previously financially stable country lurched into bankruptcy and civil unrest. All courtesy of the blind adoption of organics.

There should be a lesson in the Sri Lankan saga for everyone in New Zealand. 

After all we have no shortage of elitist greenies giving advice on organics. 

There have been cacophonous cries on banning artificial fertilisers, much of them from Greenpeace. We’re never short of a word of advice on achieving higher ESG criteria. 

Just go to the WEF website and have a look – but there are many local examples. Air NZ, Meridian and A2 Milk star.

My point is that we have numerous “experts” and “advisers”, some with messianic fervour, telling us the way forward.

There is no single answer and it sure as hell isn’t blindly following the organic cult as Sri Lanka did. As Sri Lanka found out, food was more expensive to produce and yields were down.

In NZ we have developed a strong, sustainable and environmentally responsible farming sector. 

We can and must continue to improve, but it should be as the result of our own credible scientific research and not on the advice of an overseas green elite. 

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