Sri Lanka calls on farmers to grow more rice as food situation worsens

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Colombo, June 1

Sri Lanka is calling on farmers to grow more rice as it faces its worst economic crisis in more than 70 years, media reports said.

The country's Agriculture Minister Mahinda Amaraweera made the appeal as he said the country's "food situation is becoming worse", the BBC reported.

It comes as severe shortages of essentials, including food, helped to push inflation, the rate at which prices rise, to a new record high.

Also on Tuesday, the government raised taxes to help pay for critical purchases, including fuel and food.

The island nation of 22 million people has been hit hard by the pandemic, rising energy prices, and populist tax cuts.

A chronic shortage of foreign currency and soaring inflation has also led to a shortage of medicines, fuel and other essentials.

Amaraweera told journalists that "it is clear the food situation is becoming worse".

"We request all farmers to step into their fields in the next five to ten days and cultivate paddy (rice)," he added, BBC reported.

Sri Lankan officials have been looking for ways to boost food production, as Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe has warned of severe food shortages by August.

The country is also applying for assistance from a South Asian food bank, which has supplied rice and other goods to countries in need, the Financial Times reported.

Food Commissioner J. Krishnamoorthy told the newspaper in an interview that her department had "just started the process" of asking the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) for "food bank assistance".

Krishnamoorthy added that Sri Lanka was seeking around 100,000 metric tonnes of food in the form of donations or subsidised sales.


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