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Tuesday, March 21, 2023

$ 6.9 mn lost through Chinese fertilizer deal

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Claiming that it is not possible to regain the amount of $ 6.9 million paid for the stock of organic fertilizer manufactured by the Qingdao Seawin Biotech Group Co. Ltd. in China when Mahindananda Aluthgamage was Minister of Agriculture, current Minister of Agriculture Mahinda Amaraweera said that it should be acknowledged that the country has suffered a loss in this regard.

The stock of fertilizer was rejected  in December 2021 over reports that it contained harmful bacteria.

During a media briefing held yesterday (24), journalists queried the Minister regarding the said amount of US dollars paid for the stock of organic fertilizer imported from China.

In response to the query, Amaraweera said: “A payment of $ 6.9 million has been made for the Chinese fertilizer ship. Now, there is no fertilizer, nor money. There is no apparent way to solve this issue either. My first attempt was to see if we can get this amount of money back, but it does not seem to be working. We have to accept the fact that our country has suffered a loss.”

It was recently reported that although the Agriculture Ministry was considering obtaining another type of fertilizer manufactured by the Qingdao Seawin Biotech Group Co. Ltd. to replace the controversial stock of organic fertilizer containing harmful bacteria that was sent back, the company had not responded favorably.

Speaking to The Morning at the time, Amaraweera said: “Discussions are currently underway between the company concerned, its local representatives, and Ministry officials with regard to the stock of organic fertilizer that was sent back. However, I have been informed that there are some issues with the court order in this regard.

“The company is producing other types of fertilizers that can be used for cultivation in Sri Lanka. I, as the Agriculture Minister, have requested the company to provide such fertilizers in lieu of the returned stock. However, the company does not seem to be interested in it. No final decision has been reached yet. Therefore, further discussions will be held between the relevant parties. Let us see, once those discussions are over,” he added.

It was reported in September last year that the mandatory tests carried out by several local testing agencies including the National Plant Quarantine Service (NPQS) on the organic fertilizer samples from the Qingdao Seawin Biotech Group Co. Ltd. have failed. According to the testing agencies, the stock of fertilizer contained harmful microorganisms, pathogens, and diseases harmful to the soil, plants, and humans.

Following the initial tests carried out by the Sri Lanka Standards Institute, the NPQS, and the Sri Lanka Atomic Energy Board on samples that failed, another set of samples were tested and once again confirmed the presence of harmful bacteria.

Meanwhile, the “Hippo Spirit” vessel which was in the Sri Lankan seas for more than three months carrying the controversial fertilizer consignment shipped by  Qingdao Seawin Biotech Group Co. Ltd. left Sri Lanka’s maritime space in December 2021. With the said ship leaving the Sri Lankan waters, it was reported that the company was to initiate an international arbitration process against Sri Lanka over the issue.

Against this backdrop, the Attorney General was instructed to resolve the dispute on trade terms that can be agreed upon by both parties. Accordingly, a sum of $ 5 million was deposited by the Chinese company for the supply of organic fertilizer as a security, and another $ 1.9 million was paid by the Lankan authorities to the Qingdao Seawin Biotech Group Co. Ltd.


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