Unprecedented crop failures, extreme weather destroy rice harvest
In an unprecedented turn of events, the rice harvest has failed for three consecutive seasons, creating a need for rice imports once more.
From the Yala season of 2016 up to this year, the harvest has failed and rice production has hit a 10-year low.
The government plans to import more than 500,000 metric tonnes of rice within the next few months. A metric tonne is 2,204.6 pounds.
Since May his year, private importers have brought in more than 400,000 MT of rice.
The crop forecast report of the Department of Agriculture, reveals that the rice production in Maha 2016/17 and Yala 2017 would be enough for just 7.72 months.
The cultivation of rice has also suffered from various factors including drought and floods.
According to the Agriculture and Agrarian Insurance Board, 14% of the total land area is cultivated with paddy, which is about 964,268 hectares.
Duminda Priyadarshana, head of marketing, food policy and the agri-business division of the Hector Kobbekaduwa Agrarian Research and Training Institute, said due to the massive destruction caused by flooding during the 2016 Yala season, and in 2016/ 2017 Maha season, and by the drought during this year’s Yala season, rice production declined.
He said for the first time in history, three consecutive seasons, the 2016 Yala, 2016/2017 Maha and 2017 Yala have failed.
“Nearly 150,000 Hectares were devastated by floods and torrential rains during the 2016 Yala season, while during the 2016/ 2017 Maha only half of the paddy lands were cultivated because the rainfall was not sufficient,’’ he said.
According to data from the AAIB Agriculture and Agrarian Insurance Board, in the last Maha season, 137,950.42 hectares of paddy lands were not cultivated and the crop failed in another 179,796 hectares. Also, 35,157 hectares were cultivated with alternative crops due to the severe drought.
Although the target was to cultivate 400,020 hectares of paddy land, in the last Yala season only around 263,307 hectares were grown. However, out of that, crop damage was reported in a significant land area.
According to the crop forecast report by the Department of Agriculture, there was total damage in 4,473 hectares of cultivated paddy lands. In 373 hectares there was 75% damage. In 2,767 hectares, half of the crop was damaged. In 785 hectares, the crop damage was 25%, Mr Priyadarshana said.
In the last Yala season, there was reasonable cultivation in Polonnaruwa and Batticaloa, while in Anurdhapura and Ampara, the two major paddy cultivating districts, only 28% and 67% were cultivated respectively, due to the shortage of water.
Mr Priyadarshana said the Yala harvest will not be enough for the next few months and the harvest from the next Maha will only come to the market in February next year.
“But the millers may be selling their stocks at comparatively higher prices as they did not have enough stocks to sell for three seasons,” he said.
Meanwhile, the AAIB chairman, Sydney Gajanayake, claimed the largest