Sri Lanka’s Minister of State for Agriculture has called on farmers across the country to plant more rice this year in order to curb possible severe food shortages. Experts have recently warned that there could be a 50% decline in production along with other difficult economic problems facing Sri Lankan citizens.
“It is clear the food situation is becoming worse. We request all farmers to step into their fields in the next five to ten days and cultivate paddy,” told Agriculture Minister Mahinda Amaraweera to the media in a press conference this Tuesday.
Sri Lanka, a country of 22 million people with little to no resources and reserves, is facing its worst crisis in more than seven decades. As a result, the country could no longer purchase imports that are critical to its economy, like food, medicine, and fuel.
The country’s new prime minister Ranil Wickremesinghe told the public that the country might be headed to a severe food shortage by August and further told the media that the country would need around $600 million to import needed fertilizers for crop production. This is an amount that the country is unable to raise.
Agriculturists in the country warn that should the country bring in fertilizer, it would have been too late for the next cultivation cycle. For the next two seasons, fertilizers will not be enough to provide nutrients to crops produced by Sri Lankan farmers, such as rice, tea, and maize.
An agriculture professor at the University of Peradeniya, Buddhi Marambe, said, “Even if we bring fertilizer today, it will be too late to have a good harvest.”
Marambe said that with the current situation, it is predicted that 50% of the country’s yield may be lost even if farmers receive all required fertilizers from the government.
In a bid to ensure enough supply for farmers, the Agriculture Minister has reached out and asked India for over 65 thousand tons of fertilizers. The request came alongside the country’s plead to seven other countries, not mentioning what they will provide or when it’s expected to arrive.