BY Methmalie Dissanayake
Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe yesterday (8) said that according to forecasts there would be a 40 million coconut shortage per month, from January to May 2018.
Making a special statement in Parliament, Wickremesinghe added that according to the reports, the total requirement of coconut for the first five months of 2018 is 195 million.
He said, “Due to the continuous natural disasters which occurred during this year, the food supply in the market was reduced significantly. On the other hand, we observed that food prices are increasing as well. When food production reduces, we should import food items. But we could not estimate it properly in that background.”
Meanwhile, the Prime Minister added that he intended to conduct urgent discussions with representatives of the World Bank and the Asian Development Bank, next week, with the view of deciding on measures to be taken with regard to the fledgling economy which is faced with the vicissitudes of a volatile climate and adverse weather related crises. In parallel to this situation, the economic growth of the country also decreased. The Government expected a 5.5% economic growth in 2017. But, now the Central Bank has reported that it would decrease to 4.5%. Growth of the agriculture sector is reported as minus 1.2% this year, he added.
“Apart from coconut cultivation, rice cultivation also decreased on a massive scale in 2017. Not only coconut and rice, vegetable cultivation also decreased by 30%. Moreover, the World Food and Agriculture Organization has warned that rice cultivation will decrease by 40%.”
The Government has therefore, permitted the Treasury to import rice through both the private sector and the Lanka Sathosa.
Measures have been already taken to import 200,000 metric tons of rice, Wickremesinghe noted. He elaborated, that if there is a necessity, more stocks of rice would be imported. The country will have to face this problem until April 2018.
Furthermore, permission has been granted to coconut manufacturers to import coconut cores, the Prime Minister said. “We are not making excuses. But we should explain the real situation to the country. As a responsible Government we are ready to face this challenge successfully,” Wickremesinghe said.