Don’t try this at home

Sri Lanka has been the victim of a government organised experiment. In April 2021, the government imposed a nationwide ban on the importation and use of synthetic fertilizers and pesticides and ordering the country’s 2 million farmers to go organic. It may well be that this wasn’t so much ideological as a desperate attempt to keep money in the country. It backfired.

Sri Lanka is normally self-sufficient in rice, but production fell by between forty and fifty percent, which meant the country had to import 300,000 metric tonnes of rice in the first three months of 2021. This can be compared with the 14,000 metric tonnes Sir Lanka imported in 2020.

Other crops have also suffered, tea exports fell by half, which cut off a major source of national income, and the increase in pests and diseases has meant that a lot of farmers are no longer even trying to farm commercially. They’re just trying to produce enough to get their own families through from one harvest to the next. Look, these people are the professionals. They know how to farm. They farm on a knife edge anyway, so they won’t spend money on stuff they don’t need.

So they have food price inflation running at over thirty percent. Aljazeera quoted Jeewika Weerahewa, professor of agriculture at the University of Peradeniya in Sri Lanka. “Food availability is at a crossroads and food accessibility is at a crossroads. Describing Sri Lanka’s food crisis as “a man-made disaster,” she said the country will have “serious problems with respect to childhood malnourishment and malnutrition among pregnant women and lactating mothers”.

One major problem is that whilst government has apparently removed the ban, the farmers they rely on are small farmers who don’t have any savings. After all they’ve just tried to farm through a disastrous year where yields collapsed. Given the way world fertiliser prices have risen, they cannot afford to buy fertilisers now anyway and they’re struggling to keep up loan repayments and to pay for their children’s education.

In the UK, 2.8% of the land area is farmed organically. Depending on how you measure it (value, volume or whatever) about 1% of food sold in the UK is organic. (The figure is difficult to quantify because some food may effectively be produced organically but nobody wants the expense of registering, for no financial gain) Some things, like lamb produced on the hills, is probably as organic as certified organic lamb. After all, the organic and conventional producers will often use the same wormers and medicines, but the organic producer will have more paperwork and has to pay whoever certifies their produce.

But in the west, the whole organic food business is endlessly fascinating.

The value of all food sold in the UK in 2020 was £205 billion  

The value of all organic food sold in the UK in 2020 was £2.6 billion.

This fits nicely with our figure of 1% of food sold in the UK being organic.

Look at this graph from

More than 18% of the population claim that over 50% of the food in their shopping basket is organic.
Somebody, somewhere is not being honest with themselves.

Look, it doesn’t matter. We can afford it. People are allowed their little foibles, their little luxuries. When it matters is when somebody’s little foibles become government policy and reduce a country of poverty and collapse.


There again, what do I know? Put it to the expert.

As a reviewer commented, “This book charts a year in the life of a Cumbrian sheep farmer. It’s sprinkled with anecdotes and memories of other years. Some parts (especially when featuring Sal, the Border Collie) were so funny as to cause me to have to read them out loud to my husband. It’s very interesting to read these things from the pen of the man who is actually out there doing it – usually in the rain! A very good read.”

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15 thoughts on “Don’t try this at home

  1. Doug Jacquier July 16, 2022 at 6:45 am Reply

    And to make matters worse, SriLanka is now an ungovernable mess. Oddly enough, people don’t like going hungry.

    • jwebster2 July 16, 2022 at 7:59 am Reply

      Yes, this is the reason for the bread in ‘bread and circuses’. Hungry people destroy politicians and some politicians have learned this

  2. Jane Sturgeon July 18, 2022 at 11:12 am Reply

    Thank you for explaining why, Jim. I had read a poem about the riots and wondered what was behind them.

    • jwebster2 July 18, 2022 at 11:37 am Reply

      The Sri Lankans have had to put up with an awful lot in the last generation 😦

  3. Widdershins July 18, 2022 at 7:35 pm Reply

    About Sri Lanka – that explains a lot. 😦

  4. Cathy Cade July 19, 2022 at 12:24 pm Reply

    I had wondered why they would think that occupying government buildings is likely toimprove anything… but now I better understand their anger.

    • jwebster2 July 19, 2022 at 12:51 pm Reply

      Well I suspect it was a target that they could attack and ‘claim back’. It worked in that the President fled and finally resigned. Also by doing no damage they showed they weren’t just a mob of looters, but citizens taking back what was rightly theirs

  5. Cathy Cade July 19, 2022 at 1:08 pm Reply

    We can but hope that our government (and others) are aware of the full history of the uprising.

    • jwebster2 July 19, 2022 at 1:21 pm Reply

      Judging by the way it’s been reported in the UK media it’s been brushed under the carpet as ‘too embarrassing’ 😦

      Men occasionally stumble over truth, but most of them pick themselves up and hurry off as if nothing had happened. (Churchill)

  6. Jack Eason July 30, 2022 at 5:31 am Reply

    Reblogged this on Have We Had Help? and commented:
    more from Jim.

  7. OIKOS™- Art, Books & more July 30, 2022 at 6:44 am Reply

    I had not known that you are also farming sheep, Jim! Thanks for another great piece of information. We definitely can’t live without farmers doing their traditional work. The industries will not be able to substitute. Best wishes, Michael

    • jwebster2 July 30, 2022 at 6:59 am Reply

      I’m on the edge of the Lake District with Cattle, but we’ve had sheep in the past and might have sheep in the future 🙂

      • OIKOS™- Art, Books & more July 30, 2022 at 8:41 am

        Great to hear. Jim! Thanks a lot for sharing your profession, and have a good weekend! xx Michael

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