Eppawala phosphate should be exploited - Agri experts | Daily News


 

Eppawala phosphate should be exploited - Agri experts

The Eppawala phosphate deposit.
The Eppawala phosphate deposit.

In the wake of the government’s pledge to provide fertilizer free of charge, agricultural experts propose to explore the possibility of getting the maximum use of the Eppawala phosphate deposit.

The agricultural authorities are in a dilemma when deciding whether to grant the fertilizer subsidy in bulk or under a voucher system, leaving farmers to purchase essentials from open market. It is learnt that the government spends nearly Rs. 32 billion annually to import chemical fertilizers.

A report released by agricultural sector advisers of the government says the Eppawala phosphate deposit is an ingenious mineral site in the Anuradhapura District - about 240 km away from Trincomalee and 140 km away from Colombo. It was first discovered in 1971 by the Geological Survey Department.

It has been learnt that it is rich in about 33 – 40 percent phosphate, which is a unique form of apatite. It is surrounded by six hills with a maximum elevation of about 200 meters from the mean sea level, covering a surface area of about 324 hectares.

According to these reports by experts, at present, a government-owned company has received rights only to mine in an area of 19 hectares. Before this deposit was discovered, rock phosphate fertilizers were imported at a large scale. Reports say the production of phosphate fertilizer in Sri Lanka began in 1974.

In the last 45 years, only three percent of the total reserves has been used for the annual rock phosphate production of nearly 60,000 metric tonnes which is unsatisfactory and unproductive.

It has been proposed to the government that in the wake of the current fertilizer crisis, it is high time to start manufacturing at least Single Super Phosphate (SSP) without opting for complicated and expensive processes such as the production of Triple Super Phosphate (TSP).

At present, the Eppawala Phosphate Company has limited its business only to supply powdered rock phosphate to certain local fertilizer dealers.

It is learnt that in 2007, the production of SSP was planned and gone to the extent of securing environment license only. SSP is recommended for all crops including paddy.

If the manufacturing process of SSP could be begun at the earliest, the country could gain self-sufficiency, saving around Rs. 32 billion per annum, agricultural experts and economists predict.

 


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