Sri Lanka PM warns of looming food crisis

Men wait with their carts at a market, amid the country's economic crisis in Colombo, Sri Lanka. (REUTERS)
Men wait with their carts at a market, amid the country's economic crisis in Colombo, Sri Lanka. (REUTERS)
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Updated 21 May 2022

Sri Lanka PM warns of looming food crisis

Men wait with their carts at a market, amid the country's economic crisis in Colombo, Sri Lanka. (REUTERS)
  • Last year’s ban on chemical fertilizer has affected rice production in the country
  • Island nation unable to pay for essential imports as it faces worst financial slump in decades

COLOMBO: Sri Lanka’s prime minister warned on Friday of looming food shortages, with the country unable to secure fertilizer for rice cultivation amid a devastating economic crisis.

The island nation of 22 million people is facing acute shortages not only of food, but also medicines and fuel, as its budget deficit climbs to $6.8 billion, or 13 percent of gross domestic product, leaving essential imports out of reach.

Denial of food security in the country cannot be taken by the common man, and it can lead to a severe uprising.

Dayan Jayatillake, Former ambassador

Many in Sri Lanka can hardly afford three meals a day, with the price of some essential food items, such as rice, having risen by 300 percent since the beginning of the year, according to the central bank’s estimates from April.

The country has already defaulted on its debts after missing a deadline for foreign debt repayments on Wednesday. The following day, it ran out of petrol, with no money coming and fuel ships remaining anchored offshore.




A man celebrates as a truck carrying domestic cooking gas cylinders arrives for distribution in Colombo on Friday amid Sri Lanka’s economic crisis. (Reuters)

Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, who took office after his predecessor resigned last week, said the looming food crisis was due to a lack of fertilizer for agricultural production.

“From August there is the possibility of a food crisis in Sri Lanka,” he said in a statement, adding that it remains to be seen how the county will survive.

“As Sri Lanka has not had fertilizer for cultivation, the coming rice cultivation season will not have the full production.”

A decision in April last year by President Gotabaya Rajapaksa to ban all chemical fertilizer has led to a fall in crop yields. Although the ban was lifted a few months later, no substantial imports have taken place.

The situation is compounded by the war in Ukraine, a leading global exporter of grain.

“The shortage of food in the country is likely not only because of the local production but also due to the scarcity of imports, which were affected by the Ukrainian war,” Prof. Palitha Weerakkody, from the Department of Crop Science of the University of Peradeniya, told Arab News.

“Rice is the staple food here and there will be around 30 percent reduction in its harvest in July since the farmers have not got their imported inputs to boost their cultivation.”

Dayan Jayatillake, Sri Lanka’s former envoy to the UN in Geneva, said the anticipated food crisis will be the “greatest tragedy in the annals of Sri Lanka.”

Jayatillake told Arab News: “The ban on chemical fertilizers has jeopardized not only the paddy cultivation but also our tea plantation, which is our cash crop. Our dollar income from the export of tea is also dwindling.”

He said:  “Denial of food security in the country cannot be taken by the common man, and it can lead to a severe uprising.”

Sri Lanka’s devastating economic crisis — the worst since independence in 1948 — has triggered widespread demonstrations across the country since March, with protesters demanding the resignation of Rajapaksa and his family, whom they blame for the worsening situation.

Mahinda Rajapaksa, the president’s elder brother, quit as prime minister on May 9, after clashes between government supporters and protesters left nine people dead and almost 300 injured.


UN-chartered ship in Ukraine readying for journey to Africa

UN-chartered ship in Ukraine readying for journey to Africa
Updated 33 sec ago

UN-chartered ship in Ukraine readying for journey to Africa

UN-chartered ship in Ukraine readying for journey to Africa
  • The ship will sail to Ethiopia via a grain corridor through the Black Sea
  • It will be the first humanitarian food aid cargo bound for Africa since Russia’s invasion

ODESA, Ukraine: The United Nations-chartered ship MV Brave Commander will depart Ukraine for Africa in coming days after it finishes loading more than 23,0000 tons of wheat in the Ukrainian port of Pivdennyi, a UN official said.
The ship, which arrived in the port near Odesa, will sail to Ethiopia via a grain corridor through the Black Sea brokered by the United Nations and Turkey in late July.
It will be the first humanitarian food aid cargo bound for Africa since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine on Feb. 24. under the framework of the Black Sea Grain Initiative.
The cargo was funded with donations from the United Nations World Food Programme, US Agency for International Development and several private donors.
A total 16 ships have now departed from Ukraine following the deal with Russia to allow a resumption of grain exports from Ukraine’s Black Sea ports, after they were stalled for five months due to the war.
The agreement was reached last month amid fears that the loss of Ukrainian grain supplies would lead to severe food shortages and even outbreaks of famine in parts of the world.
Ukraine has some 20 million tons of grain left over from last year’s crop, while this year’s wheat harvest is also estimated at 20 million tons.
So far most of the cargoes under the deal have carried grain for animal feed or for fuel.
As part of the UN deal, all ships are inspected in Istanbul by the Joint Coordination Center, where Russia, Ukrainian, Turkish and UN personnel work.


River torrent kills 7 in China amid widespread heavy rains

River torrent kills 7 in China amid widespread heavy rains
Updated 1 min 4 sec ago

River torrent kills 7 in China amid widespread heavy rains

River torrent kills 7 in China amid widespread heavy rains

BEIJING: Seven people were killed by a torrent of water that came rushing down a river in a popular recreational spot following mountain rains in southwestern China, authorities said Sunday.
Workers and volunteers mobilized to urge people to leave the area after receiving an imminent heavy rain warning about 2:40 p.m. on Saturday, the emergency management bureau in Pengzhou city said.
People could be seen scrambling to flee in videos posted on social media, but some were caught when the torrent hit about 50 minutes later at 3:30 p.m.
One man at the scene said several people were washed away, including some children, when the water flow in the lower reaches of the river suddenly increased in just 10 to 20 seconds, the state-owned China National Radio reported.
The Chengdu city government said Sunday that seven people had died and three others were hospitalized with minor injuries. Pengzhou is a tourist spot about 70 kilometers (45 miles) north of Chengdu, the capital of Sichuan province.
A video showed a helicopter rescuing a person stranded on a small outcropping by descending to just above the water and opening a door so the person could climb in.
Elsewhere in China, heavy rain flooded streets in the northwestern city of Xining on Saturday night. Heavy to torrential rain was forecast for the northeast from Sunday to Monday afternoon, with 10 to 18 centimeters (4 to 7 inches) of rainfall expected in parts of Liaoning and Jilin provinces.
A heat wave was hovering over a wide swath of southern China, with forecast highs on Sunday of 35 to 39 degrees Celsius (95 to 102 degrees Fahrenheit) and possibly surpassing 40 degrees (104 Fahrenheit) in some places including Shanghai.
Jiangsu province warned that road surface temperatures could rise to 72 degrees (162 Fahrenheit), raising the risk of flat tires, state broadcaster CCTV reported.


Man arrested following gunshots at Canberra airport

Man arrested following gunshots at Canberra airport
Updated 50 min 3 sec ago

Man arrested following gunshots at Canberra airport

Man arrested following gunshots at Canberra airport
  • No reported injuries in the attack

SYDNEY: Australian capital Canberra’s airport was evacuated and a man arrested after gunshots were heard in the main terminal building, police said on Sunday.
One person has been taken into custody and a firearm was recovered, the police said in a statement. There have been no reported injuries, it added.
Police said CCTV footage has been reviewed and at this time the person in custody is believed to be the only person responsible for the incident.
“The Canberra Airport terminal was evacuated as a precaution and the situation at the airport is contained,” the statement said.
The police said members of the public were not allowed to got to the airport at this time. No further details were available.
Videos posted on social media earlier in the day showed police detaining a man inside the airport as travelers look on. Media and onlookers also gathered outside the airport following the evacuation.
The incident has led to delays and cancelations of flights, media reports said.


Rushdie attack a ‘wake-up call’ on Iran, says Britain’s PM candidate Sunak

Rushdie attack a ‘wake-up call’ on Iran, says Britain’s PM candidate Sunak
Updated 14 August 2022

Rushdie attack a ‘wake-up call’ on Iran, says Britain’s PM candidate Sunak

Rushdie attack a ‘wake-up call’ on Iran, says Britain’s PM candidate Sunak
  • Iran’s reaction to the attack strengthens the case for proscribing the IRGC, the former finance minister told the Sunday Telegraph

LONDON: Rishi Sunak, one of two candidates seeking to become Britain’s next prime minister, said Friday’s attack on author Salman Rushdie should serve as a wake-up call to the West over Iran, the Sunday Telegraph reported.
Indian-born author Rushdie, who spent years in hiding after Iran urged Muslims to kill him over his novel “The Satanic Verses,” was stabbed in the neck and torso on stage at a lecture in New York state. After hours of surgery, Rushdie was on a ventilator and unable to speak as of Friday evening.
There has been no official government reaction in Iran to the attack on Rushdie, but several hard-line Iranian newspapers praised his assailant.


ALSO READ: Background of Rushdie attacker sheds light on Khomeini sympathizers in US


“The brutal stabbing of Salman Rushdie should be a wake-up call for the West, and Iran’s reaction to the attack strengthens the case for proscribing the IRGC (Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps),” Sunak, the former finance minister, said, according to the paper.
The IRGC controls Iran’s elite armed and intelligence forces.
Sunak, referring to stuttering talks between Iran and the West to revive a nuclear deal, said, “We urgently need a new, strengthened deal and much tougher sanctions, and if we can’t get results then we have to start asking whether the JCPOA is at a dead end.”
The JCPOA, or the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, is the 2015 agreement under which Iran curbed its nuclear program in return for relief from US, EU and UN sanctions.
“The situation in Iran is extremely serious and in standing up to (Russian President Vladimir) Putin we can’t take our eye off the ball elsewhere,” Sunak said.


N.Korea criticizes UN chief’s support for the North’s denuclearization

N.Korea criticizes UN chief’s support for the North’s denuclearization
Updated 14 August 2022

N.Korea criticizes UN chief’s support for the North’s denuclearization

N.Korea criticizes UN chief’s support for the North’s denuclearization
  • It demands the unilateral disarmament, and Secretary-General Guterres perhaps knows well that the DPRK has totally rejected it without any toleration, says Kim

SEOUL: North Korea’s foreign ministry on Sunday criticized the United Nations Secretary-General’s recent comment on his supports for the North’s complete denuclearization, calling the remarks lack impartiality and fairness.
North Korea’s state news agency KCNA released a statement from the foreign ministry after UN chief Antonio Guterres on Friday said he fully supports efforts to completely denuclearise North Korea when he met with South Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol.
“I cannot but express deep regret over the said remarks of the UN secretary-general that grossly lack impartiality and fairness and go against the obligations of his duty, specified in the UN Charter, as regards the issue of the Korean peninsula,” Kim Son Gyong, vice minister for international organizations of North Korea’s foreign ministry said in a statement.
Kim added that the UN secretary-general should not request or accept orders from the government of a specific country but refrain from doing any act that may impair his or her position as an international official who is liable only to the UN.
Kim said the North’s “complete, verifiable and irreversible denuclearization” (CVID) was “an infringement upon the sovereignty of the DPRK,” referring to North Korea by the initials of its official name, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.
“It demands the unilateral disarmament, and Secretary-General Guterres perhaps knows well that the DPRK has totally rejected it without any toleration,” said Kim, adding that Guterres should be careful when uttering “dangerous words” amid the extremely acute situation on the Korean peninsula.
North Korea has test fired a record number of missiles this year, and officials in Seoul and Washington say that it appears to be preparing to test a nuclear weapon for the first time since 2017, amid stalled denuclearization talks.