The Sri Lankan prime minister has warned of food shortages as the island nation struggles with a devastating economic crisis and has promised that the government will buy enough fertilizer for the next planting season to boost productivity.
President Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s decision in April last year to ban all chemical fertilizers has severely reduced yields, and although the government has lifted the ban, no significant imports have yet been made.
“While there may not be time to get fertilizer for the Yala (May-August) season, steps are being taken to ensure adequate stocks for the Maha (September-March) season,” Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe said in a late Twitter message. Thursday.
4.2 Upcoming Food Deficit (C):
Although there is no time to get fertilizer in this yala season, steps are being taken to ensure adequate stocks for the big season.
– Ranil Wickremesinghe (RW_UNP) May 19, 2022
“I sincerely urge everyone to accept the gravity of the situation,” he added.
Sri Lanka is facing severe shortages of foreign exchange, energy and medicine, and economic activity has slowed.
“There’s no point in talking about how hard life is,” said APD Sumanabhathi, a 60-year-old woman selling fruits and vegetables at Pettah Market in the commercial capital Colombo on Friday. “I can’t predict what will happen in two months. At this rate, we can’t stay here.
Nearby, a long line was formed in front of the shop selling cooking gas cylinders, the price of which has gone up.
“About 200 cylinders were distributed despite having about 500 people,” said Mohammad Shazli, a part-time driver who said he stood in line for a third day to be able to cook food for a family of five.
“Without gas, we can’t do anything without kerosene oil,” he said. “What’s the last option? We’ll die without food. One hundred percent will happen.”
The central bank governor said on Thursday that foreign exchange has been secured from World Bank loans and remittances for fuel and cooking gas shipments, but supplies are still flowing.
Inflation could rise further to 40 percent in the next few months, but it is largely driven by supply-side pressures and banks and the government are already controlling demand-side inflation, the governor added.
Inflation reached 29.8 percent in April and food prices rose 46.6 percent year-on-year.
Police in riot gear stormed a rally on Thursday, removing hundreds of protesters by truck. Protesters are demanding the resignation of the president as well as the prime minister.
Sri Lanka’s economic crisis is compounded by the Covid-19 epidemic, which has led to a tourism-dependent economy, rising oil prices and the reduction of populist taxes by the government of President Rajapaksa and his brother Mahinda, who resigned as prime minister last week.
Vikramasinghe, who was appointed prime minister in his place, is accused of being a fanatic of the brothers.
Other reasons include the high price of subsidized fuels and the decision to ban the import of chemical fertilizers, which has devastated the agricultural sector.
Supporting debt relief efforts for Sri Lanka by a group of seven economic powers, G7 finance chiefs told a draft communion from a meeting in Germany on Thursday that the country had defaulted on its sovereign debt.
Central Bank Chief P. Nandalal Warasinghe said the debt restructuring plan was almost finalized and he would soon submit a proposal to the cabinet.
“We’re in pre-emptive default,” he said. “Our position is very clear. Until the debt is restructured, we will not be able to repay.”
A spokesman for the International Monetary Fund said the fund was closely monitoring developments and that a virtual mission in Sri Lanka was expected to conclude technical talks on May 24 on a possible lending program in the country.
(Except for the title, this story was not edited by NDTV staff and was published from a syndicated feed.)