Sri Lanka Prime Minister warns of food shortages amid economic crisis and lack of fertilizer

Sri Lanka’s Prime Minister has warned of a food shortage and vowed the government would buy enough fertilizer for the next planting season as the island nation battles a devastating economic crisis.

A decision in April last year by President Gotabaya Rajapaksa to ban all chemical fertilizers drastically cut yields and although the government has reversed the ban, no substantial imports have yet taken place.

In a series of tweets late on Thursday, Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe noted that the US had forecast a “world food shortage” and identified Sri Lanka and Afghanistan as countries “to be badly affected”.

“While there may not be time to obtain fertilizer 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.”

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Sri Lanka is facing a dire shortage of foreign exchange, fuel and medicines, and economic activity has slowed to a crawl.

The Public Administration Ministry asked public officials – except for those who maintain essential services – to stay home from work on Friday in “view of current fuel shortage and issues in transport facilities” across the country.

State- and government-approved private schools also closed on Friday amid the worsening fuel shortage, with thousands of people waiting in queues at fuel stations across the country for days at a time.

Sri Lanka is now almost without oil and faces an acute shortage of other fuels as well.

“There is no point in talking about how hard life is,” said APD Sumanavathi, a 60-year-old woman selling fruit and vegetables at the Pettah market in Colombo, the commercial capital, on Friday.

“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.

“Only about 200 cylinders were delivered, even though there were about 500 people,” said Mohammad Shazly, a part-time driver who said he was standing in line for the third day to be able to cook food for his family of five.

“Without gas, without kerosene oil, we can’t do anything.

“Last option what? Without food we are going to die. That will happen, one hundred percent.”

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