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Sri Lanka food inflation hits record 25pc as shortages bite

COLOMBO (AFP) – Food inflation in crisis-hit Sri Lanka hit a record 25 per cent in January, the statistics office said yesterday, with crop failures and difficulties in financing imports leading to widespread shortages.

The island nation’s economy has tanked since the onset of the pandemic, with the collapse in tourism revenue leaving traders unable to finance purchases of essential goods from abroad.

The government last year banned the import of agricultural chemicals in a desperate attempt to shore up foreign currency reserves, drastically lowering crop yields and prompting many farmers to leave their fields bare. Supermarkets have rationed rice, lentils and other essentials, while power companies unable to pay for imported fuel have been forced to impose rolling blackouts.

January’s food inflation figure was the fourth consecutive record rise and nearly double October’s figure of 12.8 per cent.

Overall inflation measured by the Colombo Consumer Price Index (CCPI) was also a record 14.2 per cent in January.

The government lifted its agrochemical import ban in October after intense protests by farmers, but banks are still short of dollars to finance imports.

Sri Lanka was banking on a post-pandemic recovery in tourist arrivals to help replenish its foreign exchange coffers.