India begins supplying rice to Sri Lanka as part of first major food aid | Poverty and development

The island nation is struggling to pay for essential imports after a 70% drop in foreign exchange reserves.

Indian traders have started loading 40,000 tonnes of rice for rapid shipment to Sri Lanka in the first major food aid since Colombo secured a line of credit from New Delhi, two officials told the agency on Saturday. Reuters press release.

The Indian Ocean island nation of 22 million people is struggling to pay for essential imports after a 70% drop in foreign exchange reserves in two years led to a currency devaluation and efforts to seek help from global lenders.

The shipment of the staple comes ahead of a key festival in Sri Lanka.

Fuel is running low, food prices are skyrocketing and protests have erupted as the Sri Lankan government prepares for talks with the International Monetary Fund amid concerns over the country’s ability to repay its debt exterior.

India, the world’s largest rice exporter, agreed last month to provide the $1 billion line of credit to help ease crippling shortages of essential items including fuel, food and medicine .

Rice shipments could help Colombo lower rice prices, which have doubled in a year, adding fuel to unrest.

“The loading of rice has started in the southern ports,” said BV Krishna Rao, managing director of Pattabhi Agro Foods, which supplies rice to Sri Lanka State Trading (General) Corp under the facility agreement. Indian credit.

“We are loading containers first for fast shipments and ship loading will begin in a few days.”

Sri Lankan President Gotabaya Rajapaksa on Friday evening declared a nationwide public emergency following violent protests over the country’s worst economic crisis in decades.

Julio V. Miller