Protestors stand on a water cannon vehicle as they shout slogans during a protest organized by students near the President's House, amid the country's economic crisis, in Colombo, Sri Lanka, May 19, 2022. -Reuters
Sri Lanka's prime minister has warned of a food shortage as the island nation battles a devastating economic crisis and vowed the government will buy enough fertilizer for the next planting season to boost harvests.
A decision in April last year by President Gotabaya Rajapaksa to ban all chemical fertilizers drastically cut crop yields and although the government has reversed the ban, no substantial imports have yet taken place. "While there may not be time to obtain fertilizer for this Yala (May-August) season, steps are being taken to ensure adequate stocks for the Maha (September-March) season," Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe said in a message on Twitter late on Thursday (May 19).
"I sincerely urge everyone to accept the gravity of the ... situation." Rajapaksa appointed nine new members to the cabinet on Friday, including to the critical health, trade and tourism ministries. But he did not name a finance minister and the portfolio is likely to be retained by Wickremesinghe. Tourism-dependent Sri Lanka is facing a dire shortage of foreign exchange, fuel and medicines, and economic activity has slowed to a crawl.
"There is no point in talking about how hard life is," said APD Sumanavathi, a 60-year-old woman selling fruit and vegetables in the Pettah market in Colombo, the commercial capital. "I can't predict how things will be in two months, at this rate we might not even be here." Nearby, a long queue had formed in front of a shop selling cooking gas cylinders, the prices of which have soared to nearly 5,000 rupees (US$14) from 2,675 rupees in April.