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Sri Lanka’s rice crop in 2017 Yala season could also be hit

ECONOMYNEXT – With Sri Lanka’s ongoing main Maha cultivation season already badly hit by drought, the Yala minor cultivation season could be hit in 2017 even if rains return next year, officials said.

In the Maha cultivation season only about 30 percent of the land usually cultivated by rice had been sown up to December 2016, and paddy production could half.

Sri Lanka produced around 2.9 million tonnes in the last 2015/2016 cultivation season.

But in the 2016/2017 Maha season may plummet as low as 1.7 million tonnes, according to some estimates.

Despite lower rice cultivation, storage in most tanks after the north east monsoons were down to 25 to 30 percent, Director General of Sri Lanka’s meteorological office Lalith Chandrapala said.

Sri Lanka’s irrigation office had already restricted water issues for agriculture, to ensure that drinking water supplies in the island’s dry zone are protected as much as possible.

In an average year tanks were more than 50 percent full after the main cultivation season, which is supplemented with next year’s rains.

But because starting water levels in tanks are low, there may less water available for the Yala season, Chandrapala said.

The minor Yala season was estimated to produce about 1.47 million metric tonnes of paddy in 2016.

By avoiding rice which requires large volumes of water, and cultivating other crops which are less water intensive, farmers could protect their incomes avoid a financial disaster.





Rice is a globally traded commodity and could easily be imported. In Sri Lanka however the state controls rice trading with import duties and trade restrictions, which pushes up prices and could generate fears of a so-called ‘food crisis’.

Agricultural department officers have said that they have a difficult time to get farmers to switch to other crops since, having stock of rice is considered a source of security and traditional farmers are also reluctant to switch to new crops.

Popularizing short cropping rice is also a challenge due to lack of sufficient seed paddy. Farmers have already been instructed to focus on seed paddy to make sure that adequate stocks are available.

The meteorological office is forecasting generally normal rains in the first quarter of 2017, but it is the driest period of the year, where the least amount of rain come.

If rainfall is better next year, rain fed agriculture would do better.

Until inter-monsoonal afternoon thunder showers come in April, Sri Lanka could be in for a severe drought conditions.

Sri Lanka had extended dry periods in 2016 with high rainfall concentrated in May and October. Though the two period corresponds with the main monsoons, in recent years rainfall had become concentrated to a few days, rather than being spread over a longer period.

Hydro storage for power generation is also at a record low and power cuts are also possible until rains come in April.  (Colombo/December30/2016)


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