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Top UN food programme official to visit Sri Lanka amid looming food crisis

The top official of the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) is planning to visit Sri Lanka on the invitation of PM Ranil Wickremesinghe at a time when Lanka is fighting food shortage.

United Nations | sri lanka | Food production

Press Trust of India  |  Colombo 

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The top official of the World Food Programme (WFP) is planning to visit on the invitation of Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe at a time when the crisis-hit island nation is grappling with an impending food shortage.

The Prime Minister's request comes after experts have warned of a possible shortage of rice and other essential food items from September this year because of lower production due to the impact after President Gotabaya Rajapaksa had enforced a ban on fertilisers in April last year and due to the inability to import amid an acute dollar shortage.

Prior to the fertiliser ban, was self-sufficient in rice production.

Wickremesinghe said he spoke to David Beasley, the Executive Director at the UN WFP on Friday and invited him to visit . He accepted my invitation and is planning to visit shortly. We appreciate all the support extended to us by the WFP, Wickremesinghe tweeted on Friday.

On Friday, the appealed for USD 47.2 million to provide life-saving assistance to crisis hit Sri Lanka, as it noted that shortage of medicines and surgical consumables will ease in the medium term with the support of a credit line from India and other partners.

The UN team in Sri Lanka and non-governmental organisations launched the joint Humanitarian Needs and Priorities Plan on Thursday, calling for USD 47.2 million to provide life-saving assistance to 1.7 million people worst-hit by the economic crisis in Sri Lanka over a four-month period between June and September.

Additionally, the Monetary Fund (IMF) is also planning to send an in-person mission in the coming weeks to Sri Lanka for policy discussions on a financial arrangement, its spokesman has said but emphasised that the country needs to take steps to restore debt sustainability before the global lender can move on a financing programme.

Clearly Sri Lanka is facing a very difficult economic condition and severe balance of payments problems. We are deeply concerned about the impact of the ongoing crisis, particularly the humanitarian concern, that is the impact on people, IMF Spokesperson Gerry Rice told a briefing on Thursday.

Meanwhile, India has also provided a USD 55 million Line of Credit to Sri Lanka for the import of fertilisers, in a bid to help the island nation tide over its food scarcity, the Indian High Commission said on Friday.

Earlier this month, Wickremesinghe met senior officials of the FAO as well as the Development Programme (UNDP) and briefed them about the situation faced by the country.

The Prime Minister lamented that fertilisers and fuel shortage are the two biggest hurdles facing the country's agricultural sector.

Addressing the Parliament on Tuesday, Wickremesinghe said Sri Lanka will need USD 5 billion to ensure that the people's daily lives are not disrupted for the next six months.

The nearly bankrupt country, with an acute foreign currency crisis that resulted in foreign debt default, announced in April that it is suspending nearly USD 7 billion foreign debt repayment due for this year out of about USD 25 billion due through 2026.

Sri Lanka's total foreign debt stands at USD 51 billion.

In May, the IMF said it requires sufficient assurance from the country that it will restore debt sustainability during the debt restructuring process.

The economic crisis has prompted an acute shortage of essential items like food, medicine, cooking gas and other fuel, toilet paper and even matches, with Sri Lankans for months being forced to wait in lines lasting hours outside stores to buy fuel and cooking gas.

(Only the headline and picture of this report may have been reworked by the Business Standard staff; the rest of the content is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

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First Published: Sat, June 11 2022. 17:42 IST