ECONOMYNEXT - Sri Lanka expects to harvest 988,000 metric tonnes of paddy (rough rice) during the ongoing drought stricken Yala minor cultivation season, down 35 percent from a year earlier, the lowest in a decade, data from the state agriculture agency showed.
The latest forecast based on cultivation progress up to June, has been upped from 789,000 tonnes based on May data.Farmers had already been advised to use water sparingly and plant less water intensive crops than rice this season due to a drought.
Though Sri Lanka's wet zone had received rains and floods from rains, the rest of the country is still dry until the North East monsoon in September and many irrigation tanks are dry or low in water as a result of last year's drought.
The Department of Irrigation said up to June, 254,967 hectares out of a target of 400,020 had been sown. In 2016, also a drought year, 386,000 hectares were sown.
Floods and droughts had fully or partially damaged 5,539 hectares of rice which will result in 16,122 metric tonnes of crop losses, leaving an estimated 988,329 metric tonnes to be harvested.
After adjusting for wastage and seed paddy, about 870,000 metric tonnes are expected to be available for milling which will result in 590,000 metric tonnes of milled rice from the 2017 Yala season.
Sri Lanka's main Maha season was estimated to have produced a harvest of 1.48 million tonnes of rough rice, generating 920,000 metric tonnes of milled rice.
The estimated deficit based on usual consumption patterns is 851,000 metric tonnes for 2017.
However accurate estimates of stock held by large millers is not available according industry estimates.
Rice prices have already moved up, and some consumers will shift a part of their consumption to substitutes like wheat flour, reducing total demand.
The government has cut import taxes to make it easier to import rice and is also expected to stop enforcing price controls, which distorts the market. (Colombo/Aug23/2017)