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Country Briefs

  Sri Lanka

Reference Date: 17-January-2017


  1. Maha” cereal crop in 2017 significantly impaired by dry weather conditions

  2. Rice import needs forecast to increase in 2017

  3. Prices of rice hit record levels in December, while those of wheat remain generally stable

  4. Large numbers of people affected by lingering effects of drought in 2016

Dry weather conditions impair the 2017 “maha” cereal output significantly

The bulk of the 2017 largely irrigated “maha” rice crop, normally accounting for 65 percent of the annual production, was planted by the end of December. The below-average rainfall since the start of the season in October, coupled with low irrigation water availability, resulted in significant cuts in the area planted, further reducing yield prospects for the season. The latest official estimates of plantings indicate that, as of end-November, 327 000 hectares were put under the 2017 “maha” paddy crop, 50 percent below the area planted at the same time in 2016. The FAO’s Agricultural Stress Index (ASI) for the 3 dekad of December 2016 indicated a risk of drought conditions developing in various main rice-producing areas, including Northern, North Central and Eastern provinces. As a result, FAO’s outlook for the 2017 “maha” season paddy output is unfavourable. Given the current low water levels in main reservoirs, there is also concern for the 2017 irrigated secondary “yala” crop, to be planted from April, if rains do not improve in the coming weeks.

Prospects for the 2017 main season maize crop, to be harvested from February, are also unfavourable, due to the dry spell.

Rice import requirements forecast to increase in 2017 on expectations of reduced output

Total cereal imports requirements in 2017 are forecast to increase from last year’s already high level. The increase is mainly driven by the unfavourable prospects for the 2017 rice production. Imports of wheat, which is not produced domestically, are anticipated to remain at last year’s high level of 1.2 million tonnes, reflecting strong domestic demand.

Prices of rice hit record levels in December, while those of wheat generally stable

Domestic prices of rice, the main staple food in the country, rose considerably for four consecutive months, reaching record levels in December 2016. The spike in prices is due to the reduced 2016 secondary “yala” output, harvested in September, and the unfavourable prospects for the main 2017 “maha” crop. In an attempt to ease rice prices, the Government began releasing paddy from public stocks to millers in late December. In addition, the Government plans to import rice and reduce duties and taxes on imported rice in early January 2017. Wheat prices remained overall stable, reflecting adequate market availabilities, following the high level of imports in recent months.

Concerns remain for vulnerable rural groups

Food security conditions are expected to deteriorate on expectations of significant cereal production losses for the ongoing “maha” season, which follows a reduced “yala” harvest in 2016. Subsistence farm households, particularly in the North Western, North Central, Uva and Southern provinces, will likely be most affected and require some humanitarian and emergency recovery assistance. According to the Disaster Management Centre, almost 1 million people in 23 out of 25 districts have been negatively affected by drought conditions. Record prices of rice negatively affect food access and further stress the food security situation of the most vulnerable populations.