Rice production and consumption trends in Sri Lanka

Paddy rice production

Paddy rice production in Sri Lanka for 2011/2012 recorded an all time high of 4.869 million metric tons. Record rice production has boosted consumption and rice stocks as well as helped the country become a surplus producer. Paddy production is expected to maintain surplus levels in 2012/13 as well.

The recent increase in paddy rice production can be attributed to the end of the armed conflict in May of 2009 and subsequent use of disused paddy land in the war zones (estimated at 30 percent) for cultivation.

Of the two main cultivation seasons, the ‘Maha’ planting season has the advantage of the annual monsoon rains and usually has larger plantings. The Maha season provides about 70 percent of the country’s annual rice production.

The ‘Yala’ season has reduced water availability for cultivation and has lower planting and production figures. The Yala season provides about 30 percent of the country’s annual rice production.

Rice imports are discouraged in Sri Lanka. Imports are limited to small quantities of specialities such as Basmati. About 20,000 metric tons per year has been the total import quantity for 2010, 2011 and estimated for 2012 and 2013.

In 2011, Sri Lanka donated 7500 metric tons of rice to the World Food Program highlighting a shift from a rice deficit nation to that of a rice surplus nation.

Role of government

The current policy of the Government of Sri Lanka (GoSL) intends maintaining selfsufficiency in rice production and consumption. The GoSL guarantees a minimum price to farmers via the Paddy Marketing Board and, in addition, also maintains a maximum retail price for consumers.

The GoSL further subsidizes up to 95 percent of the cost of fertilizer and provides irrigation water free-of-charge through the country’s reservoir system. Farmers are required to grow only rice on paddy lands. Alternate crops may be grown, with permission, only between paddy cultivation seasons.

Current policy addresses the need to improve yield through intense research and development, especially in the areas of seed development and irrigation practices. Other areas of improvement include practices that can help reduce input usage of water
and chemicals. Post-harvest loss research as well as soil fertility and salinity issues are also addressed.

The following table helps to understand vital rice production related figures in Sri Lanka:

  2010/11 2011/12 (est.) 2012/13 (est.)
Area harvested
(Both seasons / in
1,117,000 1,262,000 1,192,000
Paddy rice
(Metric tons)
3,662,000 4,869,000 4,599,000
Paddy rice yield
(metric tons/Ha)
3.2784 3.8582 3.8582
Milled rice
(metric tons)
2,490,000 3,311,000 3,127,000
Consumption and
residual waste
(metric tons)
2,520,000 2,800,000 2,700,000

Record production figures combined with low exports have witnessed the country’s rice stocks growing to levels not reached before.

2010 / 11 – rice stocks – 164,000 metric tons

2011 / 12 – estimated rice stocks – 685,000 metric tons

2012 / 13 – projected rice stocks – 1,122,000 metric tons

Rice consumption

Rice is the preferred staple food in Sri Lanka and different varieties are produced to suit local requirements.

  • Approximately 60 percent of consumption is made up of long grain white rice
  • Approximately 30 percent of consumption is made up of short grain white rice
  • Approximately 10 percent of consumption is parboiled red rice and other local varieties
  • A small portion consists of imported basmati rice varieties from India and Pakistan

Assuming a population of 21 million people, Sri Lanka’s annual per capita rice consumption is close to 100 kgs.

Rice exports

The export market for rice remains limited due to the lack of required grades and standards and also due to the low demand for indigenous rice varieties.

A majority of exports are sent across to UAE and Canada, which have large Sri Lankan expatriate populations.

2010 / 11 – estimated exports – 17,000 metric tons

2011 / 12 – export forecasts – 10,000 metric tons

2012 / 13 – export forecasts – 10,000 metric tons

(Information courtesy, Global Agricultural Information Network, report dated 04.17.2012 and prepared by Adrian Mendis. www.gain.fas.usda.gov)