New Delhi [India] August 12 (ANI): With fuel shortages raging across the country and prices skyrocketing as the currency rapidly depreciates and foreign reserves deplete, Sri Lankan citizens are facing, among other issues, difficulty accessing food.
However, domestic production of pulses such as black matpe and green mung bean has returned and yields for this year are looking promising as farmers even prepare to enter the export market, which is showing good prices, said global pulses body Global Pulse Confederation (GPC).
Heavily import-dependent Sri Lanka is struggling to cope in a global trade environment pushed to the limits by shipping problems, inflation and skyrocketing commodity prices.
The crisis may have been exacerbated by the abrupt switch to all-organic farming but the motivation behind the transition - reducing the foreign expense on imports, of which fertilizer makes up 1.6 per cent - is potentially bringing consequences that will benefit the country's agriculture in the future, the confederation said in a press release.
"As a response to the crisis, the government and the department of agriculture are paving the way for a restructuring of the domestic production of certain crops," said Mahmud Abdel Cader, CEO of Pulses Splitting and Processing Industry. "The idea is to foster and encourage local production of some types of pulses that the country used to grow."
Sri Lanka, which was until the 1990s self-sufficient in black matpe and green mung beans - two essential food items whose imports have been restricted for a few years - is returning to the idea of cultivating it domestically.
"A first change has been to start thinking about growing locally, in order to be able to at least replace a few imported pulses, on which the government has put a ban, with domestically produced pulses. Therefore, the focus now is on developing and starting to produce two types of pulses, black mung beans, and black matpe, and see which levels of self-sufficiency they can reach," said Cader in the release.
Under interim President Ranil Wickremesinghe, the opening of food imports in June, combined with lines of credit offered to China and India are doing their bit to mitigate the threat of a food crisis.
Crucially, this financial support is easing the transition towards increased domestic production and, while off to a slow start, crop yields for farmers choosing to grow Sri Lankan pulses are bringing small rewards, it added.
Although the lack of fertilizer meant production did not hit the targets set by the Department of Agriculture for this year's crops, production levels of both black matpe and green mung beans were higher than expected: final volumes in June 2022 reached around 2000 tonne and 5000 tonnes respectively. Cowpea yields saw production levels of around 4000 tonnes for the Yala harvest.
"The main difficulty of course is to keep the levels of production stable and close to the families' needs but, in this sense, the government is helping farmers and importers a lot, allowing them to import on a credit for 2 months," said Rajendren Gnanasambanthan, President of the Essential Foods Commodities Importers and Traders' Association.
"In the meantime, local crops are adjusting to new levels of production, for example, green mung beans and cowpeas are doing very well in terms of yields, and farmers are increasing their production also for exporting purposes since the price for these kinds of pulses is very good in the market now." (ANI)