Business & Economy

Sri Lankan minister urges farmers to boost production amid food crisis

Colombo, May 31 (EFE).- Sri Lankan Agriculture Minister Mahinda Amaraweera on Tuesday urged farmers to grow rice despite the lack of fertilizers and fuel to prevent the food shortage from worsening, as the country battles a severe economic crisis.

“I have a lot of confidence in our farmers,” Amaraweera said in a press conference in the capital of Sri Lanka, a country which until recently produced enough rice to feed its population, but has now been forced to depend on imports.

“This challenge can be overcome with contributions from everyone,” the minister added.

A sudden ban on chemical fertilizers last year, part of the government’s attempt to save foreign currency and boost organic agriculture, resulted in a massive drop in agricultural production and farm yields in Sri Lanka.

Due to the lack of fertilizers and chemical pesticides, along with the lack of organic substitutes, many farmers had stopped harvesting rice, Amaraweera acknowledged.

Sri Lanka is trying to negotiate the import of 65,000 metric tons of rice from neighboring India, even as authorities urge farmers to raise production.

On Monday, Sri Lankan President Gotabaya Rajapaksa also urged farmers “not to give up cultivation” due to the lack of fertilizers or any other reasons.

However, the peasants continue to have their doubts.

“Do we have enough fuel stocks for our tractors?” said PC Amila, a small farmer from the southern province of Uva.

“Now they promise us fertilizers. If there is no money, where are they going to get fertilizers from?” he told EFE, referring to the island’s chronic shortage of foreign currency.

Sri Lanka has been witnessing severe shortages of fuel, basic food items and essential medicines, with Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe recently warning that the situation could get worse before the country begins to come out of the crisis.

The lack of food and surging inflation, which touched 30 percent in April, have wreaked havoc on citizens’ lives.

“We only have two meals a day now. Food prices have more than doubled over the past few months. We can’t afford the same food we did before,” AY Samanthi, a resident of Ratnapura in the Sabaragamuwa province, told EFE.

According to the Central Bank of Sri Lanka, “limited supplies” and “higher cost of production” have led to some food items – such as carrots and tomatoes – being sold at prices that are three times higher than a few months ago. EFE


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