Crisis-stricken Sri Lanka is seeking urgent UN help to build emergency food stocks, the prime minister’s office said Friday, after authorities warned of starvation.
Acute shortages of food, fuel and other essential commodities, including record inflation and rolling blackouts, have caused widespread distress in the island nation’s unprecedented economic crisis.
Shortages of petrol, diesel and fertilizers have made it difficult for farmers to grow crops, while the agricultural sector is still suffering from the disastrous organic policy that fell to its knees last year.
The UN Food and Agriculture Organization is now planning a “food crisis response plan” to increase stocks and provide more funding for urban agriculture, Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe’s office said in a statement.
Parliamentary Speaker Mahinda Yapa Abevardhan warned in April that Sri Lanka was facing “severe food shortages and starvation”.
Nearly half of Sri Lanka’s paddy production was lost last year and the last growing season, which started last month, has been hampered by a shortage of fertilizers.
Sri Lanka’s painful economic crisis has been exacerbated by the shortage of foreign exchange, leaving traders unable to pay for important imports, including fertilizers.
The government has since defaulted on its $ 51 billion foreign debt and is seeking an International Monetary Fund bailout.
Most of Sri Lanka’s fertilizers are imported, but last year President Gotabaya Rajapaksa announced a ban on foreign agrochemicals as the country’s foreign reserves began to run out.
The policy was billed as an attempt to make Sri Lanka the world’s first 100 percent organic farming country, but it was abruptly stopped after farmers lost their fields.
The head of the agriculture ministry was immediately fired last December after warning that the project could lead to famine by the end of this year.
(Except for the title, this story was not edited by NDTV staff and was published from a syndicated feed.)