GIEWS Country Brief: Sri Lanka 11-December-2018

FOOD SECURITY SNAPSHOT

  • Concerns about 2019 paddy crops due to likely occurrence of El Niño

  • Cereal output in 2018 estimated at average level

  • Cereal import requirements in 2018 forecast at near average levels

  • Prices of rice increased, while prices of wheat declined in November

  • Overall food security stable

  • Food security conditions generally good, but concerns remain due to likelihood of El Niño

Concerns about 2019 paddy crops due to likely occurrence of El Niño

Planting of the 2019 main paddy Maha crop, to be harvested between February and March, started in October and finalized at the end of November. Overall weather conditions since September have been favourable, with cumulative rainfall at average levels in the main producing areas, benefiting moisture conditions and early crop development.

However, latest reports from the International Research Institute (IRI) for Climate Change and Society indicate that there are high probabilities of the occurrence of an El Niño event in 2018/19. This is forecast to trigger below average rains in most of the country until April next year, bearing a high risk for the 2019 main Maha paddy output as well as the early development stages of the secondary Yala paddy season, to be sown in April and May.

Cereal output in 2018 estimated at average level

The 2018 cropping season finalized in September and aggregate paddy output is officially estimated close to the five-year average at 3.8 million tonnes, about 60 percent above last year’s drought-reduced level. Average and above average yields for both the Maha and Yala seasons have been reported as a result of favourable weather conditions and improved rainfall from the 2017/18 northeast monsoon that replenished reservoirs.

The 2018 aggregate maize output is estimated at 240 000 tonnes, close to the five-year average.

Cereal import requirements in 2018 forecast at near average levels

The aggregate cereal import requirements in 2018 are forecast at a near average level of 1.6 million tonnes, a significant decline compared to 2017’s record when paddy production was severely affected by drought. In particular, wheat import requirements are forecast at 1.2 million tonnes, about 10 percent above the five-year average and close to last year’s high level reflecting sustained demand by the domestic milling industry.

Prices of rice increased, while prices of wheat flour declined in November

Prices of rice have increased in November for the third consecutive month following seasonal patterns. Overall, prices of rice were close to their level one year ago.

Prices of wheat flour increased in September after a long period of stability following the decision of PRIMA, the country’s main wheat milling company, to increase its prices on 1 September due to higher international wheat prices and a weaker currency. Subsequently, however, the price hike has reversed. Prices of wheat flour declined slightly in November but remained moderately above their year earlier levels.

Food security conditions generally good, but concerns remain due to likely occurrence of El Niño

Overall, the country is food secure and has recovered from the 2017 drought episode that affected approximately 900 000 people.

In view of the enhanced likelihood of the occurrence of an El Niño event, the food security situation may deteriorate in 2019 in case of failure of the Maha and Yala crops.