India on Sunday handed more than 44,000 metric tonnes of urea under a credit line extended to crisis-ridden Sri Lanka, as part of New Delhi’s ongoing efforts to support the island nation’s farmers and help bolster bilateral cooperation for food security, the Indian High Commission in Colombo said.
Indian High Commissioner to Sri Lanka Gopal Baglay met Agriculture Minister Mahinda Amaraweera to inform him about the arrival of more than 44,000 metric tonnes of urea.
“High Commissioner met the Honourable Agriculture Minister and informed him about the arrival of more than 44,000 MT of urea supplied under a credit line extended by India to Sri Lanka,” the Indian High Commission said in a tweet.
"High Commissioner stressed that this latest assistance by #India symbolises its continued commitment to support the people of Sri Lanka, including #lka's farmers, and bolster the efforts for food security of the country's citizens," it added.
Last month, Mr. Amaraweera had met Mr. Baglay and sought India's help for food security and environmental protection in the island nation, as it faces the worst economic crisis in its post-independence history.
Avoiding disruptions to Yala cultivation
In May, India assured Sri Lanka to immediately supply 65,000 metric tonnes of urea to avoid any disruption to the current Yala cultivation season in Sri Lanka.
Yala is the season of paddy cultivation in Sri Lanka that lasts between May and August.
President Gotabaya Rajapaksa's decision last year to ban chemical fertiliser imports in order to turn into a green economy has caused a food shortage with crop losses amounting to 50%.
Mr. Rajapaksa had admitted his decision to ban chemical fertilisers to go 100% organic was wrong.
Also read: Who is Gotabaya Rajapaksa?
Agriculturists have warned that the country may encounter a food shortage by mid-August in the ongoing economic crisis.
India has committed more than $3 billion to debt-ridden Sri Lanka in loans, credit lines and credit swaps since January this year. Sri Lanka's annual fertiliser imports cost USD 400 million.
"It may be recalled that in line with its 'Neighbourhood First' policy and as an earnest friend and partner of Sri Lanka, India has extended multi-pronged assistance to the people of Sri Lanka in the last few months," the Indian High Commission said.
The support from India ranges from economic assistance of close to $3.5 billion to helping secure Sri Lanka's food, health, and energy security by supplying essential items like food, medicines, fuel, kerosene and other essentials.
President, PM agree to resign
The consignment of urea comes after President Gotabaya Rajapaksa offered to resign on July 13, after thousands of protesters stormed his official residence on Saturday, blaming his government for an unprecedented economic crisis that has brought the country to its knees.
Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe has also expressed his willingness to resign. But an angry mob did not spare his private residence in Colombo and set it on fire.
Mr. Rajapaksa appears to have gone underground in the face of massive public anger over an unprecedented economic crisis since the country became independent in 1948.
Sri Lanka, a country of 22 million people, is under the grip of an unprecedented economic turmoil, the worst in seven decades, crippled by an acute shortage of foreign exchange that has left it struggling to pay for essential imports of fuel, and other essentials.
The country, with an acute foreign currency crisis that resulted in foreign debt default, had announced in April that it is suspending nearly $7 billion foreign debt repayment due for this year out of about $25 billion due through 2026.
Sri Lanka's total foreign debt stands at $51 billion.