In May, the situation was exacerbated by the worst torrential rains in 14 years, which triggered floods and landslides in the country’s southwest, killing some 200 people and forcing many from their homes.But in drought-affected areas in the north, rains were not sufficient to replenish reservoirs, and the second 2017 rice paddy harvest is expected to be at least 24 percent lower than last year’s, said FAO official Cristina Coslet. Sri Lanka was hit by the worst drought in four decades last year, with poor rains continuing into 2017, causing many farmers to lose their crops and income, the agencies said. “The level of water in irrigation reservoirs is still well below the average,” she told the Thomson Reuters Foundation by phone.Some 225,000 households – or 900,000 people – face food insecurity, and have been forced to eat less and lower quality food, the report said.Unable to grow their own crops, many families have to buy food at local markets where prices have spiked due to the crisis, it said. A severe drought followed by floods has slashed agricultural production in Sri Lanka, leaving some 900,000 people facing food insecurity, the United Nations said, warning that without help the situation might further deteriorate.Production of rice, the country’s staple food, is forecast to drop almost 40 percent to 2.7 million tonnes in 2017, the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and World Food Programme (WFP) said in a report on Thursday, according to Reuters. FAO and WFP said seeds, equipment, irrigation support, and cash assistance are urgently needed to help farmers in the next planting season starting in September, and to prevent conditions from deteriorating. Other crops including pulses, chillies and onion are also expected to take a blow, it said. “If (the planting season) fails the situation will worsen a lot for the families affected,” Coslet said. (Colombo Gazette) read more

first_imgNicola Sturgeon has appointed a minister to help keep Scotland in Europe who has previously spoken out against closer political ties with the EU.  Michael Russell, the combative SNP veteran and former education minister, has been tasked with leading the Scottish Government’s negotiations with Westminster over Scotland’s future relationship with the EU.  Mr Russell, who has not been in the Scottish cabinet since Ms Sturgeon became First Minister in 2014, has been given the official title of Minister for UK Negotiations on Scotland’s Place in Europe.  Following the Brexit vote in June he said Scotland must remain in the EU “no matter how and no matter what it takes”.  But in a book on Scottish nationalism which he co-authored 10 years ago, entitled Grasping the Thistle, the Argyll and Bute MSP wrote that “the best way forward for our involvement with Europe should be in the trading sphere not through further political integration”. Want the best of The Telegraph direct to your email and WhatsApp? Sign up to our free twice-daily  Front Page newsletter and new  audio briefings.   Jackson Carlaw, deputy leader of the Scottish Conservatives, said last night: “As he takes on his new job, Mr Russell will need to explain why the SNP is so desperate to be part of an ever closer political union with Brussels when it appears he doesn’t believe in a word of it.”  Ms Sturgeon has repeatedly warned since the Brexit vote that another independence referendum is “highly likely” in order to keep Scotland in the EU.  She said yesterday that the appointment, which is subject to approval by Holyrood next month, was an indication of the importance she was placing on the Brexit negotiations. Mr Russell will report to her and attend cabinet.  She added: “We already have an agreement with the new Prime Minister that the Scottish government should be fully involved in the development of the UK Government’s position ahead of Article 50 being triggered and beyond, and that options to protect Scotland’s relationship with Europe will form part of these discussions.  “By putting a dedicated and experienced minister at their centre, it will ensure that Scotland’s voice is heard loudly and clearly.”  Fiona Hyslop, the external affairs minister, and Alasdair Allan, the Europe minister, will continue to lead discussions with EU institutions and member states.  Mr Russell said he was delighted with the new role, adding: “Following the overwhelming vote in Scotland to remain in the EU, it is essential that Scotland comes together to defend our national interest. Accordingly in these discussions, it is important that the nation speaks, as much as possible, with one voice.”  Scottish Labour said “people voted in overwhelming numbers to maintain our relationships with both the EU and the UK”, adding: “Delivering an outcome that achieves both of these is what we want to see.”A spokesman for Mr Russell said: “This was a jointly authored book and whilst Michael Russell is a lifelong European, Dennis MacLeod is a lifelong anti-European, a point clearly made in the book’s introduction.‎”last_img read more