India starts supplying rice to Sri Lanka in first major food aid | Poverty and Development

The island nation is struggling to pay for essential imports after its foreign exchange reserves fell 70%.

Indian traders have started loading 40,000 tonnes of rice for fast delivery to Sri Lanka in the first major batch of food aid since Colombo received the line of credit, two officials told Reuters news agency on Saturday. from New Delhi.

The Indian Ocean island nation of 22 million people is struggling to pay for essential imports after its foreign exchange reserves tumbled 70 percent in two years, leading to a depreciating currency and efforts to find aid. help from global lending institutions.

The flagship shipment arrives before an important festival in Sri Lanka.

Fuel is running low, food prices are soaring and protests have erupted as the Sri Lankan government prepares for talks with the International Monetary Fund amid concerns about the country’s ability to repay foreign debt. country.

India, the world’s biggest rice exporter, last month agreed to provide a $1 billion line of credit to help ease shortages of essential commodities, including fuel, food and medicine. .

Rice shipments could help Colombo lower the price of rice, which has doubled in a year, adding fuel to the unrest.

BV Krishna Rao, chief executive officer of Pattabhi Agro Foods, which is supplying rice to Sri Lanka State Trading (General) Corp under the India Credit Agreement, said: “Rice loading has started in southern ports. .

“We are loading the containers first for quick shipments and loading will begin in a few days.”

Sri Lankan President Gotabaya Rajapaksa declare a nationwide state of emergency late on Friday following violent protests over the country’s worst economic crisis in decades.

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