First food aid of 40,000T rice to Sri Lanka from Friend India
Indian have started loading 40,000 tons of rice for prompt shipment to Sri Lanka in the first major food aid since Colombo secured a credit line from New Delhi, Reuters reported.
The shipment of the staple comes before key festival in Sri Lanka, the Sinhala ad Tamil New Year.
India, the world’s biggest rice exporter, last month agreed to provide the $1 billion credit line to help ease crippling shortages of essential items, including fuel, food and medicine to Sri Lanka.
The rice shipments could help Colombo bring down rice prices, which have doubled in a year, adding fuel to the unrest.
“Rice loading has started in southern ports,” said B.V. Krishna Rao, managing director of Pattabhi Agro Foods, which is supplying rice to Sri Lanka State Trading (General) Corp under the Indian Credit Facility Agreement.
“We are first loading containers for prompt shipments and vessel loading will start in a few days.”
The Indian rice will be available before demand jumps for Sri Lanka’s mid-April New Year festival, said a Mumbai-based dealer with a global trading firm.
“Right now, only India can ship rice quickly. Other countries need weeks, India can deliver in days,” the dealer said.
India’s support comes after previous administrations led by the Rajapaksa family had drawn Sri Lanka closer to China during the past decade, leading to unease in New Delhi. However like a true blood brothers, India is helping out straightaway without any strings.
The 40,000-tonne shipment is part of 300,000 tonnes India will supply to Sri Lanka in the next few months, Rao said.
Sri Lanka has become a net importer of rice as its production fell after Colombo banned all chemical fertilisers in 2021, a move that was later reversed.
Indian traders are likely to start shipping other essential commodities like sugar and wheat in coming weeks, the dealer said.