US announces $40 million agricultural aid to Sri Lanka

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COLOMBO, Sri Lanka (AP) — The United States on Saturday announced $40 million in assistance to buy fertilizer and other key agricultural inputs in time for the next cropping season in crisis-stricken Sri Lanka.

USAID Administrator Samantha Power, who is visiting Sri Lanka, made the announcement after meeting with farmers’ representatives in Ja-Ela, outside the capital, Colombo. She said the money would be in addition to the $6 million announced earlier to help low-income farmers.

Sri Lanka is facing its worst economic crisis and severe shortages of essentials like food, fuel and medicine due to a lack of foreign currency to pay for imports. Agricultural yields have more than halved in the past two growing seasons because authorities banned imports of chemical fertilizers ostensibly to promote organic farming.

“The farmers I have just met described the enormous challenges that the economic crisis has imposed on them, their families and the whole community. They described phenomena that were unimaginable two or three years ago,” Power told reporters.

She said that according to the World Food Programme, more than 6 million people – nearly 30% of Sri Lanka’s population – currently face food insecurity and need humanitarian assistance.

Power said the money will help 1 million farmers in time for the next season which will start soon.

Sri Lanka has reached a preliminary agreement with the International Monetary Fund for a four-year, $2.9 billion aid package. However, the program is dependent on debt restructuring assurances from creditors after the country announced it was suspending repayments of its foreign loans.

Sri Lanka’s total external debt stands at over $51 billion of which $28 billion is due to be repaid by 2027.

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