Sri Lanka faces rice crop losses and higher prices

Sri Lanka's rice crop has been hit by poor rains that is expected to lead to food supply difficulties and higher prices in the lean period of October-January after the harvest, says FAO's Global Information and Early Warning System (GIEWS).

Since April, rainfall has been scanty. Following an on-the-spot assessment, FAO warns of poor prospects for the coming Yala crop. The land under crops has decreased and, in many parts, planting has been delayed and growth is highly stunted. The FAO predicts that the Yala paddy crop could be 33 percent below the average for the last five years.

And this follows a fall in the main rice harvest, the Maha. So overall rice production for 1995/96 is likely to be 26 percent below normal and 11 percent lower than it was after the last serious drought of nearly a decade ago. Rainfed and minor irrigation areas in the central part of the country around Kurunagala and Anuradhapura have been badly affected. So too have the areas of Mannar, Mullativu and Jaffna in the North.

In the North, where many people rely on food aid, the food situation is expected to become particularly tight as shipments to affected areas are likely to be constrained by the deterioration in the security situation.



Drought prone: small farmers and landless labourers are the worst hit

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The government estimates that ten districts with a population of 1.7 million have been severely affected by drought in the Maha season. This does not include those expected to be hit by the shortfall in the Yala crop. Many of those affected are small farmers owning less than half a hectare and landless labourers. Most people will receive limited financial help from the government.

The price of rice climbed 30 percent in the first part of 1996, although recent imports have caused prices to decline slightly. Prices are expected to fall further in August due to additional imports and supplies from the Yala crop. But this may be temporary and further price increases are anticipated as the country approaches the lean period.

Sri Lanka: Special alert no. 269


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