ISSN: 1391 - 0531
Sunday, November 12, 2006
Vol. 41 - No 24

Harry’s seed slips through quarantine

By Nalaka Nonis

Customs Quarantine Division and Agriculture Department Seed Certification and Plant Protection Centre officials are tight-lipped over a consignment of grass seed imported by a company owned by a business tycoon which allegedly contained a harmful weed.

Two consignments of grass seed had been imported from Australia and New Zealand in the name of Lanka Milk Foods Company owned by businessman Harry Jayawardena.

Consignments contained 600 kilograms of the variety ‘Tall Fescue Festuca Arundinacea’ from Australia and 600 kilograms of Rye Grass seed and 125 kilograms of ‘White Clover’ from New Zealand, according to the permit issued to the company by the Agriculture Department.

The Quarantine Division had sent samples of the seed to the Seed Certification and Plant Protection Centre in Peradeniya for examination to determine whether they contained harmful weeds but officials later declined to comment on the results of the tests.
Seed Certification and Plant Protection Centre Director Dr. Kumudu Fernando said no comment could be made about the results.

“We are not in a position to give any details with regard to the report on the seed samples”, Dr. Fernando said.

Customs Chief Preventive Officer Samantha Gunasekara said he should have been informed about the alleged consignment. A few months ago another consignment of grass seed imported by the same company and found to be contaminated with a harmful weed was released despite recommendations from quarantine officials that it be re-shipped to Australia.

Approval for the release had been granted by the Agriculture Development Ministry Secretary, allegedly ignoring objections from quarantine officials at the Colombo Port and from Dr. Kumudu Fernando.

Colombo Port authorities had ordered the re-shipment after detecting the weed identified as Bromus mollis in the 500 kilograms of Tetila rye grass seed and the 50 kilograms of Haifa White Clover seed imported from Australia.

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Copyright 2006 Wijeya Newspapers Ltd.Colombo. Sri Lanka.