Top UN food programme official to visit Sri Lanka | Daily News

Top UN food programme official to visit Sri Lanka

A top official of the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) is planning to visit Sri Lanka on the invitation of Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe at a time when the country is grappling with an impending food shortage.

The Prime Minister’s request comes after experts have warned of a possible shortage of rice and other essential food items from September this year because of lower production due to the impact after President Gotabaya Rajapaksa had enforced a ban on chemical fertilisers in April last year and due to the inability to import amid an acute dollar shortage.

Prior to the fertiliser ban, Sri Lanka was self-sufficient in rice production.

Prime Minister Wickremesinghe said he spoke to David Beasley, Executive Director at the UN WFP on Friday and invited him to visit Sri Lanka. “He accepted my invitation and is planning to visit shortly. We appreciate all the support extended to us by the WFP,” Wickremesinghe tweeted on Friday.

On Friday, the United Nations appealed for US$ 47.2 million to provide life-saving assistance to crisis-hit Sri Lanka, as it noted that shortage of medicines and surgical consumables will ease in the medium term with the support of a credit line from India and other partners.

The UN team in Sri Lanka and non-governmental organisations launched the joint Humanitarian Needs and Priorities Plan on Thursday, calling for US$ 47.2 million to provide life-saving assistance to 1.7 million people worst-hit by the economic crisis in Sri Lanka over a four-month period between June and September.

Additionally, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) is also planning to send an in-person mission in the coming weeks to Sri Lanka for policy discussions on a financial arrangement, its spokesman has said but emphasised that the country needs to take steps to restore debt sustainability before the global lender can move on a financing programme.

Clearly Sri Lanka is facing a very difficult economic condition and severe balance of payments problems.

We are deeply concerned about the impact of the ongoing crisis, particularly the humanitarian concern, that is the impact on people, IMF Spokesperson Gerry Rice told a briefing on Thursday.

Meanwhile, India has also provided a US$ 55 million Line of Credit to Sri Lanka for the import of fertilisers, in a bid to help the country tide over its food scarcity, the Indian High Commission said on Friday.

Earlier this month, Wickremesinghe met senior officials of the FAO as well as the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and briefed them about the situation faced by the country.

The Prime Minister lamented that fertilisers and fuel shortage are the two biggest hurdles facing the country’s agricultural sector.

Addressing the Parliament on Tuesday, Wickremesinghe said Sri Lanka will need US$ 5 billion to ensure that the people's daily lives are not disrupted for the next six months.

The nearly bankrupt country, with an acute foreign currency crisis that resulted in foreign debt default, announced in April that it is suspending nearly US$ 7 billion foreign debt repayment due for this year out of about US$ 25 billion due through 2026.

Sri Lanka's total foreign debt stands at US$ 51 billion.

In May, the IMF said it requires sufficient assurance from the country that it will restore debt sustainability during the debt restructuring process. (PTI)

 


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