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Businesses open in Sri Lanka’s Colombo amid tight security after protests

Indian traders started loading 40,000 tonnes of rice for shipment in the first major food aid since Colombo secured a credit line from New Delhi, two officials told Reuters new agency on Saturday. 

READ MORE:  Sri Lanka capital under heavy security following night of unrest

Crippling shortages

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

Police and the military patrol the streets in Sri Lanka‘s capital Colombo as an uneasy calm prevails following protests over a crippling economic crisis. Sri Lanka‘s crisis — the result of economic mismanagement by successive governments — has been compounded by the Covid-19 pandemic, which has hit tourism and remittances. (AP) Shops have opened amid tight security in Sri Lanka's capital city Colombo, where a state of emergency has been declared to tackle growing unrest fuelled by an unprecedented economic crisis

President Gotabaya Rajapaksa invoked laws that allow the military to arrest and detain suspects on Friday, saying the decision was taken to protect public order and to maintain essential supplies and services

Sri Lanka, a nation of 22 million people, is struggling to pay for essential imports, including fuel, after a 70 percent drop in foreign exchange reserves in two years led to a currency devaluation

Sri Lanka's government has said it is seeking a bailout from the International Monetary Fund while asking for fresh loans from India and China.

Indian traders started loading 40,000 tonnes of rice for shipment in the first major food aid since Colombo secured a credit line from New Delhi, two officials told Reuters new agency on Saturday. 

READ MORE:  Sri Lanka capital under heavy security following night of unrest

Crippling shortages

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.

“Rice loading has started in southern ports,” said BV 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. 

The 40,000-tonne shipment is part of 300,000 tonnes India will supply to Sri Lanka in the next few months, Rao said

Angered by shortages of fuel and other essential items as well as rolling blackouts for up to 13 hours a day, protesters have taken to the streets in the island nation. 

Hundreds clashed with police and the military outside Rajapaksa's residence on Thursday night, as they called for his ouster and torched several police and army vehicles

Highlighting the severe shortage of foreign currency, a vessel carrying 5,500 metric tonnes of cooking gas has had to leave Sri Lankan waters after Laugfs Gas, the company that ordered it, was unable to procure $4.9 million from local banks to pay for it

“People are struggling with an acute shortage of cooking gas but how can we help them when there are no dollars? We are stuck,” Laugfs Gas Chairman WKH Wegapitiya told Reuters

READ MORE: Sri Lanka imposes 10-hour power cuts as economic crisis deepens

Source: TRTWorld and agencies

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