STARING GLUMLY at his paddy field in the depths of rural Sri Lanka, B. R. Weeraratne sighs. The regular incursions of greedy elephants have been bad enough. But the government’s outright ban on agrochemicals will, he fears, slash his yields of nadu and samba, two of the most popular varieties of rice. Though the 56-year-old likes the idea of organic farming in principle, he thinks “the soil, the plants and the farmers all need time to learn it.” It should be phased in. Otherwise farmers like him may be flung into destitution.
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But Gotabaya Rajapaksa, Sri Lanka’s president, is adamant. The former army officer was elected in 2019 largely on his reputation for ruthless dynamism. In 2009, as secretary of defence under his brother Mahinda, then the president, he brutally ended a long civil war against Tamil rebels….