In the middle of its worst economic crisis in decades, Sri Lanka has been hit by a critical shortage of food with the majority of the people now in starvation eating one or two meals per day as prices of food items have become unbearable, consumer protection societies claimed.
A top agricultural official warned last month of impending famine and asked the government to implement an orderly food rationing scheme to avoid such a scenario.
Food shortages have been worsened by the government’s ban on agrochemical imports, which was lifted in November after widespread crop failures and intense farmer protests.
Food and beverage prices in Sri Lanka have skyrocketed due to inflation. People are waiting in queue for hours to buy groceries.
The price of rice in Sri Lanka has risen to Rs.300- 500 per kg. In Sri Lanka, 400 grams of milk powder costs Rs 790. In the last three days, the cost of milk powder has risen by Rs 250.
Dhal (lentils) has risen from Rs.168 to Rs.500 and wheat flour from Rs.65–70 rupees to Rs.200 rupees.
A 450-gram loaf of bread went from Rs.60 rupees in January to Rs. 150 while a kilo of chicken rose from Rs.750 rupees to Rs.1300 rupees. A kilo packet of milk power has gone from Rs. 1,345 rupees to Rs.1,945.
Official food inflation stood at 57.4% in May, the highest ever year-on-year food prices ever recorded since 2004.
Advocata Institute’s Bath Curry Indicator (BCI), which tracks changes in the retail price of food, also recorded its highest ever increase of 71% from May 2021 to May 2022 and an increase of 13% over the past month.
It said this is the largest ever increase in food prices since the index started measuring a basket of commonly consumed food items from 2019.
With food prices increasing at this rate, a family that had to spend Rs. 1140 for a week of food in May 2019, now has to spend Rs 1940 to consume the same basket of food items.
The BCI uses the Pettah retail price for its calculation. Similarly, prices for the same basket in supermarkets for the same basket of goods have nearly doubled since May 2020.
The Colombo consumer price index that looks at overall inflation, stood at 39% in May 2022. This is the highest inflation rate recorded for the past 70 years.