India starts exporting 40,000 tonnes of rice to Sri Lanka
Sri Lankan President Gotabaya Rajapaksa on Saturday proclaimed a very sensitive situation in the island country. It came a day after aggressive protesters demonstrated near his home demanding his resignation following the recent financial crisis in the country.
A nationwide fight was later called as the country finds itself unable to pay for imports, causing shortages of different commodities, including fuel. Sri Lanka’s financial burdens are placed on successive governments that fail to increase exports and depend on traditional sources of money like tea, clothing and tourism, and a culture of consuming imported goods.
Amid all the chaos, India has started marketing 40,000 tonnes of rice for rapid shipment to Sri Lanka in the first major food aid since Colombo secured a line of credit from New Delhi.
The Indian Ocean island country of 22 million people is struggling to pay for basic imports after a 70% drop in foreign trade reserves in two years prompted currency devaluation and efforts to seek l assistance from global lenders. The staple food expedition precedes a life-saving celebration in Sri Lanka.
Fuel supplies are tight, food prices are skyrocketing and protests have erupted as the Sri Lankan government prepares for talks with the International Monetary Fund amid concerns over the country’s ability to repay its foreign debt.
India, the world’s largest rice exporter, last month agreed to provide the $1 billion line of credit to help address devastating shortages of basic goods, including fuel, food and medicine. Rice shipments could help Colombo reduce rice costs, which have soared in a year, adding fuel to the turmoil.
A shortage of foreign currency in Sri Lanka has resulted in shortages of essentials such as fuel, cooking gas and power cuts that can last up to 13 hours a day.