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The appetite to avert a food crisis

31 Dec 2021

The food shortage that Sri Lankans feared and the Government continued to deny appears to be looming. However, despite the Government’s promises which do not seem very promising, the situation has been worsening and speculation is rife that it can further worsen next year. The scarcity of consumer goods that the Government said was temporary and was limited to only a few non-essential items, has now rendered the people unable to purchase essential food items such as rice, milk powder, and sugar.  Sri Lanka is dealing with several crises including the health and economic crises. However, the people would feel the impacts of a food crisis more than other crises, because after oxygen and water, food is what is most necessary for life. Even if other crises were resolved, this is not a situation the Government can delay taking action on or take lightly.  Whether the Government sees this urgency and whether the Government has an appetite to avert or resolve such a food crisis is in question, as it has done very little compared to what it has promised to do. Even though the prevailing scarcity of foreign reserves is a major obstacle to importing essential food items and fertiliser, there is no excuse for the Government’s lethargy in devising plans to utilise the available resources to ensure that the prevailing food shortage does not worsen in the coming few months, especially in January that comes after a festive season.  Both Opposition parties as well as members of the Government have raised this concern. This week, former Prime Minister and current United National Party (UNP) Leader and Parliamentarian Ranil Wickremesinghe urged the Government to finalise the purchase of food and fuel on credit from India, which is currently being discussed. As several politicians and activists have, he also warned that by the Sinhala and Hindu New Year in next April, the country will inevitably have to deal with a severe food shortage. Meanwhile, Education Minister Dinesh Gunawardena also stressed that the Government needs to take practical measures to resolve the prevailing economic crisis and that a guarantee should be given to low-income groups that essential food items would be provided. However, the Government has not announced any new or promising plans. The fact that the Government would have announced it, if it actually had such plans, implies that the next year is unlikely to be any different.  First and foremost, the Government has to pay its fullest attention to addressing the food shortage, because Sri Lanka is heavily affected by dwindling foreign reserves and the increasing need for imported essential food items. To manage these two situations, it has to give priority to the ongoing discussions with other countries or foreign entities to ensure that Sri Lanka receives imports on time, and in a way that is beneficial to the country. Discussions, the issuance of letters of credit (LCs), and port clearances need to be expedited.   Another crucial step the Government needs to take is streamlining the food supply mechanism within the country, in order to prevent importers, distributors, and traders from taking advantage of the situation by hoarding food and creating a shortage in order to increase prices. If the Government allows such practices, which have been intensifying the economic burden on the people during the past few months, an artificial food shortage will emerge before an actual shortage. If hoarding is tolerated or taken lightly, it is the underprivileged sectors of the country who do not have the ability to pay high prices to obtain food that are going to suffer. At the same time, the Government needs to pay attention to reviving the agriculture sector, because the country cannot continue to import food as it did before. First, the Government has to get rid of the erroneous impression that the reversal of the ban on chemical fertiliser imports would resolve the damage the ban caused.  On the one hand, discussions with the farmers that were affected by the Government’s decision to go organic without a proper plan are still ongoing and farmers await proper compensation for the losses they suffered, and on the other hand, they are not in a position to resume their farming activities without having access to the fertiliser they need. Promises and abrupt importation and the introduction of various types of new fertilisers has not resulted in any positive results, and farmers continue to produce extremely low amounts of harvest compared to what they produced before the said ban. The Government needs to accept the existing crisis, in order for it to prevent the worsening of that crisis. The first person that needs to do it is none other than Agriculture Minister Mahindananda Aluthgamage, who keeps evaluating the quality and amount of harvest based on the land area that has been farmed, and giving exaggerated promises to farmers about the Government’s plans to revive the agriculture sector. We cannot also forget that former Agriculture Ministry Secretary Senior Prof. Udith K. Jayasinghe-Mudalige was abruptly sacked due to his warnings of an imminent food shortage and the criticism of the Government’s fertiliser policies. Another Secretary of the same Ministry was sacked over similar criticism against the Government’s policies. There are also ample incidents where the Government responded harshly to criticism against its failure to acknowledge the collapsing agriculture sector. If this is the Government’s response to a likely crisis, which has a high likelihood of affecting a large majority of the country’s low and middle-income groups, it would not be wrong to say that we can have little hope about the food situation in the coming year. In the coming New Year, the Government has a plethora of challenges to face. Even though the economic and pandemic situations are often blamed for these challenges, a large part of resolving these issues involves changing the Government’s idea of resolving an issue, and understanding that delaying a food shortage is not the same as preventing a food shortage. The Government has two options – either it needs to accept and acknowledge the true situation of the food shortage and take action, or if it is confident about its plans, it needs to tell the country what exactly it is planning to do and how exactly those plans are going to materialise, with statistics and specific timelines.

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Discover Kapruka, the leading online shopping platform in Sri Lanka, where you can conveniently send Gifts and Flowers to your loved ones for any event. Explore a wide range of popular Shopping Categories on Kapruka, including Toys, Groceries, Electronics, Birthday Cakes, Fruits, Chocolates, Automobile, Mother and Baby Products, Clothing, and Fashion. Additionally, Kapruka offers unique online services like Money Remittance, Astrology, Medicine Delivery, and access to over 700 Top Brands. Also If you’re interested in selling with Kapruka, Partner Central by Kapruka is the best solution to start with. Moreover, through Kapruka Global Shop, you can also enjoy the convenience of purchasing products from renowned platforms like Amazon and eBay and have them delivered to Sri Lanka.Send love straight to their heart this Valentine's with our thoughtful gifts!


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