ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lankan farmers will be receiving financial assistance from USAID via the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation amid shortage scares as the country goes through a devastating economic and political crisis.
USAID Administrator Samantha Powell announced during an official visit that 40 million USD would be given to Sri Lankan farmers to purchase fertiliser and other agricultural inputs, in time for the Maha cultivation season.
The program “will benefit up to 1 million farmers in need of fertiliser across Sri Lanka, which includes 53,000 farmers in need of emergency cash assistance,” an official statement said.
Sri Lanka’s agricultural sector was hit by a fertiliser ban which effectively halved the country’s paddy production.
After the ban was lifted, the country had to rely on various credit lines to import fertiliser as the central bank could not provide dollars for imports.
The fuel crisis also impacted food production, with farmers unable to power their tractors and other agricultural machinery.
Shortage fears prompted the government to commence cultivation on various unutilised lands, including land belonging to Sri Lanka railways and other government organisations.
In late August, Agriculture Minister Mahinda Amaraweera announced that paddy cultivation had hit a record 512,000 hectares in the minor Yala season, which usually sees around 400,000 hectares cultivated.
Meanwhile, UN reports show an increase in child malnutrition in the country, where food prices have skyrocketed with the sharp depreciation of the rupee. Children are also unable to supplement the nutrients with medicines, due to shortages.
A World Food Program food security assessment recently said that 3 in 10 households (6.26 million people) are food insecure, 65,600 of which are severely food insecure.
Powers said in a Twitter video that she had spoken to several farmers during her Sri Lanka visit.
“They told me, if we have the inputs, if we have the fertiliser, we can feed this country,” she said. (Colombo/Sep11/2022)