ECONOMYNEXT - Sri Lanka is expecting paddy output during the minor Yala cropping season to fall 48 percent to 789,000 metric tonnes in 2017 from a year earlier amid lagging effects of last year's drought and floods in the wet zone.
Sri Lanka's main Maha season paddy output has already plunged 49 percent to an estimated 1.478 million tonnes, down from last year's record 2.9 million tonnes, the state Department of Agriculture said.
Rains returned in the first quarter of 2017 with floods in the Western and South-Western areas of the island, but major irrigation tanks in the dry zone remain at low levels.
Dry zone tanks are filled during the North Eastern monsoon in the last quarter of the year. Both monsoons failed in 2016, leading to low water levels for rice growing this year.
Floods in Colombo, Gampaha, Matara, Ratnapura and Hambantota destroyed 5,349 hectares of newly sown paddy, leading to 16,870 metric tonnes of crop losses.
This year, only about 400,000 hactares of rice is expected to be sown, down 20 percent from last year.
In a weather update in June the Department of Agriculture said dry weather will prevail in the dry and intermediate zones until mid-September with only occasional showers, which will not be enough to boost storage in irrigation tanks, requiring stringent water issue.
Total expected paddy output in 2017 would be 2.267 million tonnes, down 48 percent from last year's 4,420 million tonnes.
After setting aside stocks for seed paddy and wastage, 2.28 million tonnes of paddy is expected to be available for milling. About 1.38 million tonnes of rice is expected to be milled this year, generating a deficit of 978,00 tonnes of rice.
However, reliable data about stock with large-scale private domestic rice traders are not readily available.
The government cut import taxes on rice to allow traders to import rice. State agencies that are notorious for procurement corruption and buffer stock fraud are also planning to import 300,000 tonnes of rice.