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Food shortages add to Sri Lanka's woes

STORY: Sri Lankan locals expressed their desperation over food shortages on Friday (May 20), as the country continues to battle a crippling economic crisis.

The island nation's prime minister, Ranil Wickremesinghe, vowed the government will buy enough fertilizer for the next planting season to boost harvests.

A decision in April last year by President Gotabaya Rajapaksa to ban all chemical fertilizers drastically cut crop yields.

And although the government has reversed the ban, no substantial imports have yet taken place.

This local resident described which everyday supplies have now become inaccessible.

"Difficulties is ... mainly for children, it is milk powder, and for even adults are affected with lack of milk powder, fuel, so many things -- rice. Everything has gone up, prices have sky rocketed, so that's why more and more people are coming to, you call this .....(unclear). So there are more and more people frequent these kind of places. It's cheap, comparatively. "

Nearby, a long queue had formed in front of a shop selling gas cylinders for cooking, the prices of which have soared to nearly $14 from $8 in April.

Mohammed Shazly is one of those waiting in line, his third day of queueing in the hope of cooking for his family of five.

"So, without gas, we can’t do anything. Without kerosene oil, we can’t do anything. So last thing we have to go to... is die. Next month you can see, Sri Lankan people, without food, lot of people (will) die."

As anger against the government spreads, police fired tear gas and water cannon to push back hundreds of student protesters in Colombo on Thursday (May 19).

Tourism-dependent Sri Lanka is facing a dire shortage of foreign exchange, fuel and medicines, and economic activity has slowed to a crawl.

Inflation could rise to a staggering 40% in the next couple of months.

The central bank governor said on Thursday foreign exchange had been secured from a World Bank loan and remittances to pay for fuel and cooking gas shipments, but supplies are still to flow through.

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