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Sri lanka News – Sri Lanka farmers are estimated to have sown a record 512,000 hectares of paddy in the minor Yala 2022 season spurred by rising rise prices and a food shortage scare, Agriculture Minister Mahinda Amaraweera said.

Sri Lanka was originally expecting only 275,000 hectares of rice to be cultivated despite a chemical fertilizer ban imposed by ousted President Gotabaya Rajapaksa being lifted as forex shortages from a broken soft-peg blocked imports, he said.

Sri Lanka usually sees about 400,000 hectares of rice cultivated in the Yala season yielding about 1.5 million tonnes of paddy and 800,000 cultivated in the Main Maha season.

If 500,000 hectares of rice was cultivated over 2.0 million tonnes of paddy would be harvested provided fertilizer was given on time could be milled into 1.36 million tonnes of rice, enough to feed the country for more than 6 months.

However farmers have said fields cultivated with organic fertilizer produce about 30 to 40 percent less yield.

“We do not know exactly how much paddy would be produced,” Minister Amaraweera said. “Some of the farmers who cultivated early did not get chemical fertilizer. Some of them got fertilizer. So we cannot make the forecasts accurately as we did before.

“However because the extent cultivated was high we think there will be a considerable harvest.”

Tests carried out by Sri Lanka’s rice research stations have shown that 70/30 mix of chemical and organic fertilizer produced the best, results, Minister Amaraweera said.

Authorities were at first expecting rice to be imported from around September, but now it is expected that stocks will last till late December he said.

Minister Amaraweera said earlier that over 230,000 tonnes of rice had been imported to Sri Lanka this year. Sri Lanka consumes about 200,000MT of rice a month.

Due to money printing, and a ban on open account imports there were fears of food shortages.
However President Ranil Wickremesinghe has also liberalized rice imports preventing a shortage.

Sri Lanka had good rains late in the Yala season in 2022 allowing farmers to go to the field.

Paddy prices soared above 120 to 150 during the season as food shortage scare was spread mainly by politicians giving them an incentive to cultivate despite tractor fees for tiling land jumping from around 12,000 rupees to over 20,000 an acre and there being diesel shortages.

“Some people went to Hambantota and bought paddy at 200 rupees a kilogram, and bought all the rice in supermarkets,” Minister Gunewardene said. “Now they have weevils.”

Despite better harvests, the broken soft-peg with the rupee falling to 360 to the US dollar from 182 over two years had driven rice to over 220 rupee a kilogram, and proteins even higher, putting food out of the reach of the less affluent.

Minister Amaraweera said his main task was now to make sure diesel was available for framers , with complaints that fuel was not readily available for harvesting equipment due to forex shortages from a broken soft-peg.

Sri Lanka also raised 110 million dollars World Bank credit to import urea for the next season but the first tender for 150,000MT had only resulted in a 12,500MT order. (Colombo/Aug24/2022)

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