Food shortages in Sri Lanka

Sri Lankan farmers predict that their rice harvests will suffer in the wake of the switch, potentially compounding the country’s current struggles with food supplies. The Sri Lankan government already announced in early September plans to combat food shortages by setting price controls on staples like rice and impose new laws aimed to curb hoarding. The shortages were a result of import restrictions the government enacted because it was running out of foreign exchange reserves.

In July, Sri Lanka’s reserves of foreign currency dropped from $4 billion to $2.8 billion—$1 billion of which was used to make payments on its debt. Medical supplies as well as staple foods are now in short supply.

Sri Lanka’s lesson in organic farming

Sri Lanka’s current situation is a reminder of just how costly the transition to organic farming can be. That’s not to say organic farming is a bad idea. On an environmental level, it’s linked with better soil quality, greater biodiversity, and uses less energy than conventional crops. Research suggests organic farming is better for humans, too: One meta-analysis of 343 peer-reviewed studies, published in 2014, found that organic crops have significantly more antioxidants and fewer pesticide residues compared to conventional crops.

But because organic crops often yield less sellable food (at least at first) shifts have to be carefully planned and managed—particularly at a national scale.

This article has been clarified to note that Sri Lanka’s ban on chemical fertilizers was part of its broader efforts to reduce imports amidst its foreign exchange crisis.

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