Sri Lanka PM Warns Of Food Shortage In August Amid Lack Of Fertilisers In Yala Season

As the island nation confronts a terrible economic crisis, Sri Lanka’s Prime Minister has warned of a food scarcity and said that the government will buy enough fertiliser for the next planting season.

President Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s decision to restrict all chemical fertilisers in April last year dramatically reduced output, and while the government has now lifted the ban, no major imports have yet arrived.

Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe stated in a series of tweets late Thursday that the US had predicted a “world food shortage,” naming Sri Lanka and Afghanistan as countries “to be badly affected.”

“While there may not be time to obtain fertiliser for this Yala [May-August] season, steps are being taken to ensure adequate stocks for the Maha [September-March] season,” Mr Wickremesinghe said.

“I sincerely urge everyone to accept the gravity of the… situation.”

Sri Lanka is experiencing severe currency, fuel, and pharmaceutical shortages, and economic activity has ground to a halt.

Except for those who maintain vital services, the Public Administration Ministry has ordered public employees to stay home on Friday due to “current fuel shortages and issues in transport facilities” across the country.

Thousands of people have been queuing for days at a time at fuel stations around the country, and state- and government-approved private schools have closed as a result of the deepening fuel scarcity.

Sri Lanka is currently almost devoid of petrol, and other fuels are in short supply.

A lengthy line had developed in front of a store selling cooking gas cylinders, whose prices had increased massively.

On Thursday, the governor of the central bank announced that foreign exchange had been secured through a World Bank loan and remittances to pay for fuel and cooking gas shipments, but that supplies would still be delivered.

The governor said that inflation might increase to a stunning 40% in the coming months, but that this was primarily due to supply-side pressures, and that the bank and government were already controlling demand-side inflation.

In April, inflation reached 29.8%, with food prices up 46.6 percent year on year.

As public discontent with the administration grew, police in Colombo used tear gas and water cannon to disperse hundreds of student protestors on Thursday.

Protesters are calling for the president and prime minister to be removed from office.

The COVID-19 outbreak, which is wreaking havoc on the tourism-dependent economy, has been compounded by rising oil prices and populist tax cuts by President Rajapaksa and his brother, Mahinda, who resigned as prime minister last week.

Mr Wickremesinghe, who took his place as Prime Minister, is accused of being a puppet of the brothers.

Other issues include substantially subsidised domestic fuel prices and a restriction on chemical fertiliser imports, which destroyed the farm sector.

The G7 finance chiefs said on Thursday in a draught communique after a conference in Germany that they support efforts to provide debt relief for Sri Lanka after the government defaulted on its sovereign debt.

The central bank chief, P Nandalal Weerasinghe, stated that plans for a debt restructuring were almost complete and that he would be submitting a proposal to the government soon.

The International Monetary Fund, according to a spokeswoman, is closely monitoring developments and expects a virtual mission to Sri Lanka to conclude technical negotiations on a prospective loan programme on May 24.