Situation to worsen for Sri Lankans in acute food crisis: UN organizations warn
Due to foreign currency constraints, two consecutive seasons of poor harvests resulted in a drop of nearly 50% in production and a reduction in imports of food grains.
Two UN organizations warned Monday that Sri Lanka’s crisis-stricken population of 6.3 million faces severe acute food insecurity. Their situation could worsen if they don’t receive adequate support and assistance for their livelihoods.
Between June and July 2022, the joint FAO/WFP Crop and Food Security Assessment Mission visited 25 different districts of the country to assess agricultural production and assess household food security.
The report warned that without assistance, Sri Lanka’s food security situation will worsen, especially during the lean season from October 2022 to Feb 2023. This is due to poor harvests of staple foods like paddy rice and the ongoing economic crisis.
Virendra Sharan, FAO Representative in Sri Lanka, stated that livelihood assistance should continue to be a priority to smallholder farmers to prevent further food security problems and support the restoration of agricultural production.
A third of the world’s population depends on agriculture. Improving the production capacity of farmers will increase the sector’s resilience, decrease import requirements due to shortages of foreign currency reserves, and prevent the rise in hunger. Sharan was quoted in an FAO press release.
Families are feeling exhausted months into this economic crisis. More than 60% of families are eating less and less nutritious food. This is happening at a time of financial constraints that have led to the government having to reduce nutrition programs such as school meals, fortified food for mothers, and undernourished kids.
Abdur Rahim Siddiqui, WFP Country Director in Sri Lanka, stated that WFP’s number one priority is to provide nutrition and food assistance immediately to the most vulnerable communities to prevent further nutritional deterioration.
The report stated that Sri Lanka’s severe macroeconomic crisis has led to acute shortages and spikes of prices for essential products such as food and fuel, which severely compromised economic activity and caused major disruptions to agricultural production.
The report forecasts that paddy rice production will be 3 million mt by 2022. This is the lowest level since 2017’s drought-affected harvest. Low yields due to reduced fertilizer application are the primary reasons for the low production.
The past five-year average for maize production is 40 percent lower than the previous average. This has negative consequences on livestock and poultry production. The production of vegetables, fruits, and export-oriented crops like tea, rubber, and coconut is also well below the average. This has led to a substantial decline in household income and export revenues.
The prices of most food items have been steadily rising since the quarter ended in 2021. They reached a record high in August 2022. With the year-on-year food price inflation rate of nearly 94%, the new record high was set in August 2022.
The joint FAO/WFP Mission made the following recommendations: Provide immediate food or cash-based assistance for vulnerable and marginalized communities. This includes pregnant and nursing women, women-headed households, and people with disabilities to meet their immediate food, nutrition, and nutritional needs.
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