I missed the 7am SLTB bus to Hingurakgoda, because it left the Ratmale junction at 6.45am and so took the Private bus at 8am. Rs37 is the bus fare and it was packed with the locals going to the Sunday Pola (farmers market) including those who missed the earlier bus.
I got the chance to chat with my friends in the Pola, where I used to go every Sunday when I was in town in my farming days. I had not seen them in a while and many had not even heard of the accident so were pleased to see me hobbling just with a walking stick now!
I was chatting with a farmer friend, who had brought his produce to the pola for sale. Boss Mama is what I call a professional farmer, in a small way intensively farming about 5 acres and has tried almost everything. So it was him, I used to go for advice in the past, and was generally talking about the state of farming, and the problems he was facing.
Now though the fertilizer subsidy at a lower amount is given to the farmers for other crops, I was asking him about some of the issues. He was quite firm in that the Urea he uses is a little suspect now. The quality has dropped substantially. It is all imported, mainly from the Middle East as it is a by-product of the Oil Refining processes. I checked the international prices at the moment, being US$550 a ton which works out to Rs72/kg or over Rs3500 per 50kg bag for which Rs1000 is charged, the rest being the government subsidy. The actual cost is now higher as it must include the transport, and retailer margins when one buys it locally.
Either way there appears to be some fraud that goes on in the procurement processes for this. There is a tender board through which the urea is purchased, and I read in today’s Sunday Times about serious irregularities in the tender process being highlighted. Be that as it may and remembering how the tea small holders are also demonstrating about the poor quality of their fertilizer, urea being the main component for the lush growth of the tea bush, it boils down to a problem! These tea smallholders were complaining the fertilizer they purchases actually killed the tea bushes a serious allegation.
Another problem in using state procured fertilizer to which the government must accept full responsibility.They must right these wrongs.