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Diplomatic row between China and Sri Lanka escalates as Colombo rejects Chinese shipment of contaminated fertilisers

Tests carried out on samples of fertilisers sent from China to Sri Lanka showed the batch was contaminated with harmful microbes

A fresh diplomatic crisis seems to be brewing between Sri Lanka and China after the former rejected a consignment of Chinese fertiliser stating that it was contaminated and it did not pass its quality standards.

Sri Lanka’s Plant Protection Ordinance prohibits the government from importing any product that is found to host microbes or other harmful microorganisms. However, tests carried out on Chinese samples showed the batch was contaminated with harmful microbes. The Chinese officials, however, asked Sri Lanka to re-test the contaminated batch claiming the standards on the island nation did not meet the international standards

But Dr Ajantha de Silva, the Director-General of Agriculture, turned down China’s request for re-test, saying the tests carried out across the world are largely uniform in practice and standard and that a test carried out in one country is easily acceptable in another.

Sri Lanka conveyed its decision to China with a non-compliance report, informing Beijing that it has not allowed for bulk permit to the Chinese batch of fertilisers, which prevents it from entering or loading in Sri Lanka. 

Chinese embassy in Sri Lanka blacklists People’s Bank of Sri Lanka over non-payment

The decision came days after the Chinese embassy in the island nation blacklisted the state-owned People’s Bank of Sri Lanka over its failure to make a payment for imported fertilisers. The bank had withheld payments to China’s Qingdao Seawin Biotech Group Co Ltd after fertiliser samples were allegedly found to contain microbes. 

The Sri Lankan bank said it has to follow the order issued by the Commercial High Courts of Sri Lanka with regard to the trade transaction in question, which prevents the bank from processing the payment, and any and all future course of payments will be done as per the directive of courts.

‘Contaminated shipment of fertilisers won’t be accepted’: Sri Lanka

Speaking on the Chinese allegations of non-payment by the Sri Lankan bank, Silva said, “I don’t think Sri Lanka dishonoured the contract at any time. I believe it is the Chinese suppliers who have erred and breached the contract by sending us a contaminated shipment of fertilisers.”

He further asserted that if China is to send another batch of fertilisers, it must pass the country’s regulatory checks regarding Standards and legal framework in importing organic granular fertiliser or they will be rejected once again. 

Farmers in Sri Lanka heavily depend on fertilisers for the cultivation of crops. The sowing season of “Maha” has already underway but many Sri Lankan farmers are yet to start cultivation as they are still waiting for organic fertilisers to be provided to them. Amidst rising demand for fertiliser, Sri Lanka has got the batch of chemical inputs needed for farming from India.

Vessel carrying contaminated Chinese fertilisers renamed in a bid to enter Sri Lanka

After Sri Lanka raised reservations about the quality of fertiliser shipment, the vessel carrying the consignment, Hippo Spirit, appeared to sail back to China. However, it changed its course to Singapore before changing its course back to Sri Lanka, without returning to China. 

Attempts were also made to rechristen the container, presumably to pull the wool over the eyes of Sri Lankan authorities into accepting the same consignments. The vessel changed its name from Hippo Spirit to Seiyo Explorer, which was confirmed by the same IMO number shared by both the ships.

IMO number is a seven-digit number that is unique for every vessel. It is linked to its hull, irrespective of changes of names, flags, or owners. The vessel is currently at 61 nautical miles away from Weligama.

Ayodhra Ram Mandir special coverage by OpIndia

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OpIndia Staff
OpIndia Staff
Staff reporter at OpIndia

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