‘We are going to die’: Food shortages add to Sri Lanka’s woes
Sri Lanka’s prime minister has warned of a food shortage as the island nation battles a devastating economic crisis and vowed the government will buy enough fertiliser for the next planting season to boost harvests.
A decision in April last year by President Gotabaya Rajapaksa to ban all chemical fertilisers drastically cut crop yields and although the government has reversed the ban, no substantial imports have yet taken place.
“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,” Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe said in a message on Twitter late on Thursday.
“I sincerely urge everyone to accept the gravity of the … situation.”
Rajapaksa appointed nine new members to the cabinet on Friday, including to the critical health, trade and tourism ministries. But he did not name a finance minister and the portfolio is likely to be retained by Wickremesinghe.
Tourism-dependent Sri Lanka is facing a dire shortage of foreign exchange, fuel and medicines, and economic activity has slowed to a crawl.
“There is no point in talking about how hard life is,” said A.P.D. Sumanavathi, a 60-year-old woman selling fruit and vegetables in the Pettah market in Colombo, the commercial capital. “I can’t predict how things will be in two months, at this rate we might not even be here.”
Nearby, a long queue had formed in front of a shop selling cooking gas cylinders, the prices of which have soared to nearly 5,000 rupees ($14) from 2,675 rupees in April.
“Only about 200 cylinders were delivered, even though there were about 500 people,” said Mohammad Shazly, a part-time chauffeur in the queue for the third day in the hope of cooking for his family of five.
“Without gas, without kerosene oil, we can’t do anything,” he said. “Last option what? Without food we are going to die. That will happen hundred percent.”
The central bank governor said on Thursday foreign exchange had been secured from a World Bank loan and remittances to pay for fuel and cooking gas shipments, but supplies are still to flow through.
Inflation could rise to a staggering 40% in the next couple of months but it was being driven largely by supply-side pressures and measures by the bank and government were already reining in demand-side inflation, the governor said.
Inflation hit 29.8% in April with food prices up 46.6% year-on-year.
G7 SUPPORT ON RELIEF
As anger against the government spreads, police fired tear gas and water canon to push back hundreds of student protesters in Colombo on Thursday. The protesters are demanding the ouster of the president as well as the prime minister.
The economic crisis has come from the confluence of the COVID-19 pandemic battering tourism, rising oil prices and populist tax cuts by the government of President Rajapaksa and his brother, Mahinda, who resigned as prime minister last week.
Critics accuse Wickremesinghe, appointed prime minister in his place, of a being a stooge of the brothers, an accusation he denies.
Other factors have included heavily subsidised domestic prices of fuel and the decision to ban chemical fertiliser imports.
The Group of Seven economic powers supports efforts to provide debt relief for Sri Lanka, group finance chiefs said on Thursday in a draft communique from a meeting in Germany after Sri Lanka defaulted on its sovereign debt.
Central bank chief P. Nandalal Weerasinghe has said plans for debt restructuring were almost finalised and he would be submitting a proposal to the cabinet soon.
“We are in pre-emptive default,” he said. “Our position is very clear, until there is a debt restructure, we cannot repay.”
A spokesperson for the International Monetary Fund said it was monitoring developments very closely and that a virtual mission to Sri Lanka was expected to conclude technical talks on a possible loan programme on May 24.
($1 = 355.0000 Sri Lankan rupees)
RW CHURCHILL will be our savior.
But he should first come out of the closet.
It will be great to have the first gay PM in SL Parliamentary history.
Ha,Ha, Certainly NOT the first!
Hek! Stop marching and destroying! Grow instead. How about Sirima producing sufficient food in the country by 1977 and you idiots voted her out and selected the president who boasted about only being unable to change man to a woman and the other way around? Sri Lanka is a country that has rain throughout the year. Manioc, Sweet potatoes needs 3 months, jack fruit and breadfruit are there with so many other food stuff. All around the island, there is a sea full of fish. Some starvation is also good for the brain to work. As the time goes, the cost of FUXXing Aragalaya will become clear too, by depriving SL of the income from tourism since the day the mayhem begun.
Where is the 65,000 MT of chem fertilizer promised to RW-CHURCHILL by big brother India?
This reminds me the Yahapala PM promising a Volkswagen Factory?
Guys please be careful when you name RW as Churchill. Churchill can be great in Western Europe but he is directly responsible for killing of millions of Indians by creating an artificial famine and deriving them food! A favorite trope of postcolonial academics and their left-liberal public has been the alleged infamy of Britain’s most cherished hero, Winston Churchill, charged with everything from casual racism to actual genocide. The worst accusation has been that of deliberately starving four million Bengalis to death in the famous famine of 1943.
So, do not name RW as SL Churchil because currently folks in SL facing starvation and history can repeat here in SL.
It is RW who is boasting that he is SL’s CHURCHILL.
As far as we in Goragogama are concerned, RW is not even fit to be Churchill’s footwear!!!
He is the Royal Family’s underwear providing support to bulging tools!!
We in SL are, at the moment, expecting a relief package from IMF and the G7. It should be, and hopefully will be monitored tightly, so that the funds would not go astray. Restructuring of outstanding loans to the world will be done therein, and SLankans will have to work hard and develop the economy thereafter. But all these good plans will go haywire if the old/ former set of rogue politicians will continue to stay in power. Our foreign relations with friendly countries such as Japan should be developed too, in order to maximize the economic outlook of the country, in development of financial sector. Then only our second largest foreign exchange earner, tourism can take place.It will be slow and steady progress, for the SLankans, who undergo untold suffering presently, as regards lack of basic life necessities, such as food, fuel , electricity etc.
Nothing will happen as long as someone pretending to be CHURCHILL is in the chair, protecting the Raja Pavula, and another W-HERO hiding in the Bunker in Janadhipathi Mandiraya.
The stupids are now talking of the 20th Amendment to the Constitution whilst the population is facing starvation.
The Aragalaya has now become a World Model and well ensure the thieves in big places are incarcerated in Welikada.