ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka paddy output in the main Maha cultivation season in 2017 is expected to fall 53 percent to 1.82 million metric tonnes, a government estimate said, amid the most severe drought in decades.
Sri Lanka’s paddy output reached a record 2.9 million metric tonnes in the 2016 Maha season, amid favourable rainfall.
After wastage and 0.05 percent of the harvest set aside for seed paddy, the milled rice output is expected to be 0.85 million metric tonnes, down from 1.82 million tonnes last year, the Department of Agriculture said.
Sri Lankan farmers sowed 535,193 hectares in the current cultivation season, down 29 percent from last year, from 808,000 hectares of potential area. About 137,017 hectares of planted paddy is expected to be fully or partially damaged.
The estimate is higher than a December forecast of 1.02 million tonnes of paddy and 0.62 million tonnes of rice, based on the the-cultivated extent.
Sri Lankans are estimated to consume about 196,000 metric tonnes of rice a month, not counting hotels and rice-based industries.
Although Sri Lanka is not expected to have a drought in 2017, and rainfall in the wet zone has been strong, the lagging effect of last year’s drought is also expected to hit the Yala season in the second half of this year, due to low starting storage in irrigated regions.
Sri Lanka’s Finance Ministry has cut the import tax on rice, which has kept prices above global levels to allow imports to come in to stop a so-called ‘food crisis’ precipitated by import duty protection.
Meanwhile, the Trade Ministry has slapped price controls in a misguided policy, extending a policy begun by then Consumer Affairs Minister Bandula Gunewardene. (Colombo/Mar13/2017)