Sri Lanka Faces ‘Man-Made” Food Crisis as Farmers Stop Planting

Mahinda Samarawickrema, 49, will not be planting paddy this season.

After a government ban on chemical fertilisers cut his rice yield in half during the March harvest, the farmer, who owns eight hectares (20 acres) of paddy and banana, said he no longer has the income to maintain a farm. Especially as his banana crop also looks set to fail.

“It’s a total loss,” the father of five said in mid-April, standing in a field of stunted banana trees in Sri Lanka’s southern Hambantota district. “When I look at this, I know I cannot get the usual yield.”

By this time of the year, most of Samarawickrema’s trees should be twice their height and in bloom, but only a few of the 1,300 trees in the weed-strewn fields have any flowers. The famer says he used to get up to 37,000kg (81,571 pounds) of bananas a year, but this time, he expects only 6,000kg (13,228 pounds).

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