A drop in rice production in the current Yala season could see Sri Lanka going hungry for rice.

A drop in rice production in the current Yala season could see Sri Lanka going hungry for rice after November. A drop in rice production in the current Yala season could see Sri Lanka going hungry for rice after November.

The Agriculture Minister Anura Kumara Dissanayake told Lanka Business Online on Tuesday that the Government is expecting a shortage in local rice supply, with the current Yala harvest falling behind 2003’s record levels.

End June rice stocks with the private sectors and in Government stores added up to 234,439 metric tones.

Another 125,450 metric tones are expected for July with the peak Yala harvest of 443,00 metric tones coming in August.

The Minister says with Lankans eating up about 162,000 metric tones a month, the country would have less than four months stock of rice left at the end of August, enough to feed the people up to November.

Dissanayake did not confirm plans to import the shortfall, but was worried that traders would hoard rice stocks to artificially inflate prices further.

If imports are not an option, the shortage will spill over into early months of 2005, until the Maha harvest season starts next March.

Feeding fuel to the fire, Ministry experts are expecting a drop in paddy production in the Maha season too.

The 2003 Maha season reaped a harvest of 1,895,000 metric tones of paddy, while the Yala season pitched in with 1,177,000 metric tones.

Paddy production in 2003 reached an all time high of 3,071,000 metric tones with favorable climatic conditions and the additional supply from the North and East regions after the ceasefire in 2002.

The record growth fed 98 percent of domestic demand for rice.

Jayantha Kovilagodage