Sri Lanka is hosting the fifth Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation (BIMSTEC) summit from 28-30 March 2022. Established in 1997, BIMSTEC is a seven-member regional organisation comprising Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Nepal, Myanmar, Sri Lanka, and Thailand. BIMSTEC pays significant attention to agriculture and food security, with agriculture included as a stand-alone sector in 2005 in recognition of its importance. Sri Lanka, the lead country for the coordination of activities in the Science, Technology and Innovation Sector, is in the midst of a food crisis even as it plays host. Against this backdrop, this blog discusses food security challenges in the BIMSTEC region, Sri Lanka’s experiences in smart farming, and its expectations from the summit.
Rice is the dietary staple and the major domestic crop cultivated in Sri Lanka since ancient times. Therefore, the production and availability of rice are closely tied to food security as well as political stability in the country. Every government since independence has given prominence to the goal of achieving self-sufficiency in rice. Accordingly, a significant amount of resources are allocated for the supply of irrigation water, land development, research on technological improvements, farm mechanisation, and support facilities such as credit, subsidised inputs, and farmer welfare measures. As a result, the cultivation of paddy and production of rice increased steadily with Sri Lanka reaching near self-sufficiency in rice and rice imports dropping to an insignificant amount. Despite these achievements, problems relating to the paddy and rice sector continue to occupy a foremost place among the country’s socio-economic issues. At present, supply shortages and rising retail prices have caused severe social unrest. In this background, this blog identifies the current problems in the rice sector and suggests some policy recommendations.
Among the many impending crises resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic, rising food insecurity due to lockdown measures is one of the most critical. The food system in Sri Lanka has already proven to be vulnerable and inefficient in coping with crises. Further, malnutrition is a persistent problem in Sri Lanka, with severe regional disparities. Policymakers are thus faced with the dual challenge of mitigating the short and medium term impacts of COVID-19 as well as strengthening Sri Lanka’s food systems in the long term. This blog examines how COVID-19 could worsen food security issues in the country and what measures can be taken to overcome these challenges.
Even though most Sri Lankans, especially those in poor and rural communities, are vulnerable to various types of risks, the demand for insurance is significantly low. This article by Manoj Thibbotuwawa examines microinsurance as an alternative to regular insurance and provides recommendations to make microinsurance schemes more viable in Sri Lanka.
This article takes a look at the importance of food security to Sri Lanka, and ways in which the concerned issues can be addressed.