‘Have to eat half’: Sri Lankans facing food shortage amid economic crisis

Thusitha Hadaragama inspected goods to buy for his family of five, which includes two school-aged children, who subsist on his monthly wage of 50,000 rupees ($181.82) in Sri Lanka’s Minuwangoda town this week.

“Prices have risen once more. I’ll buy a small amount “offered the 43-year-old driver, who works 40 kilometres away in Colombo, Sri Lanka’s economic metropolis. “We’ll have to consume only half of what we’ve been eating.”

Families across Sri Lanka, like Hadaragama’s, are experiencing the effects of the country’s worst economic crisis in years, which has pushed up prices and produced shortages of everything from food to fuel.

The economy has been ravaged by historically weak government finances, improperly timed tax cuts, and the COVID-19 pandemic, which devastated the tourism business and foreign remittances.

As of February, the country’s foreign reserves were just around $2.31 billion, despite the fact that it faces debt obligations of around $4 billion for the rest of the year.

“The shortages are caused by a lack of cash, not a lack of any goods,” said Dhananath Fernando, chief operating officer of Colombo think tank Advocata Institute.

Sri Lanka’s government announced last week that it will resume talks with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to find a way out of the crisis, after months of defiance.

India and China have also offered support to the 22-million-strong country.

Everyday activities, on the other hand, have become a nightmare for average Sri Lankans. Hadaragama now has to queue for hours to fill up his motorcycle and pay more than twice as much for a litre of gasoline as he did three months ago.

Varuni, his wife, has reduced the amount of food she cooks for her family, which includes two teenage sons and a girl, at home.

“I boiled three potatoes earlier,” she explained. “Now I just create two.”

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