COLOMBO: Facing a severe food crisis, Sri Lanka has decided to import some essential food items from a total of $120 million remaining from the Indian Line of Credit (LOC) that was given to purchase various other items but remained unutilised so far.
A selected number of essential food items are planned to be imported out of $1 billion LOC extended in March this year. The LOC had been extended for the procurement of food, medicines, and other essential items from India.
Trade, Commerce, and Food Security Minister Nalin Fernando told media that the requirement of essential food items have been forwarded and awaiting the response. The food requirements also to be forwarded to the committees appointed to study the Indian LOC through the Finance Ministry, he added.
Sri Lanka's Treasury is to inform India the essential items by next week.
Media reports indicated that nearly 40 per cent of the Indian LOC still remained unutilised, though the country has a shortage of many essential items. Affected by shortage of some of the essential medicines, the Health Ministry had recently expedited the procurement of medicines using the Indian LOC. However depending on most of the imported food items, the country is facing severe shortages of many food items.
Releasing the Complex Emergency Needs Assessment Report on Sri Lanka's worst ever economic crisis since independence in 1948, the International Federation of Red Cross last week revealed that 96 per cent of Sri Lankans have been affected by the crisis with some pressing issues of food insecurity, health concerns, livelihoods, and nutrition.
"The deepening economic crisis is forcing people to make heart-breaking choices between going hungry, buying life-saving medicine, or finding the money to send children to school," the report, prepared after surveying 2900 households and case studies of 10 estates in the tea plantation sector where most low waged poor reside, stated.
The report has noted that Sri Lanka is experiencing a "worryingly high problems of access to food, either because of high cost, income stress or lack of availability. Runaway inflation and loss of livelihoods have doubly impacted people's ability to cope with the record cost of living. Income loss is causing significant food insecurity, while inflation is driving up the cost of medicine and fuel costs are preventing access to essential healthcare".
It warned that without immediate humanitarian interventions, the impact on communities in the Indian Ocean Island is likely to be long-lasting and cumulative.