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Sri Lanka has been in the news for perilous shortages, political turmoil, protests and violence. But as the country tries to get its act together and implements measures to overcome the economic crisis, the nation offers interesting business opportunities for India including southern Indians, says Sri Lankan Deputy High Commissioner in Chennai D Venkateshwaran.

Venkateshwaran lists some of the recent developments. He said India will soon be supplying 65,000 tonnes of urea fertilizer as part of its $1 billion credit line. Sri Lanka has two cropping seasons: yala and maha like kuruvai and samba, with maha being the bigger season. The fertilizer shipment will more than cover the yala season that lasts between May and August for which the requirement is around 40,000 tonnes, said Venkateshwaran. While India generally does not permit export of fertilizers, it has made an exception for Sri Lanka, he added.

India will soon be supplying 65,000 tonnes of urea fertilizer as part of its $1 billion credit line, which will cover one of the two cropping seasons in Sri Lanka

High Commissioner Milinda Moragoda met concerned Indian officials on Friday where the issue was discussed. Sri Lanka is aiming to boost its agriculture sector to avoid any disruption in the agriculture market following the drop in the paddy cultivation in the Maha session.

Disruptions in the availability of paddy due to the ban on import of fertilizers were the starting point of the present economic turmoil. The fertilizer import ban was driven by loss in foreign exchange earnings from tourism and remittances due to the pandemic and the Easter bombings. Another ship carrying 40,000 tonnes of fuel from India will berth in Colombo soon, Venkateshwaran said.

Meanwhile, Sri Lanka has permitted foreigners to own property. A prime market through which the island nation wants to bring in foreign exchange is apartments in upmarket areas of Colombo where real estate sells at one-sixth of the rates in Mumbai, for instance. To help in this, visa extensions for foreigners will be given liberally. Venkateshwaran points out that the Sri Lankan Rupee has made gains against the US dollar recently and that stock market index has upped, which are positive signs, he said.

Sri Lanka is seeking urgent donations of medicines including insulin for children and oncological supplies. These are at a scarcity and the country needs them urgently. Venkateshwaran is urging Indian pharma companies to consider making these donations.

Many of the suppliers of Sri Lanka’s food requirements are in southern India. Venkateshwaran hopes the vendors will supply against dollar accounts they can hold in Indian banks in Sri Lanka so the trade can be conducted in Sri Lankan Rupees. This would help address foreign exchange shortage in meeting food requirements.

While these are some short-term aspects, Venkateshwaran says his country offers an attractive long-term investment destination for companies in southern India for whom Sri Lanka offers more proximity than cities or regions in northern India. Pharma, small businesses and electric vehicles could be target businesses. Venkateshwaran says having a second investment in Sri Lanka will open up new markets for Indian companies since Sri Lanka has free trade agreements with India, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Singapore.

The Sri Lankan High Commission is planning to hold an investors meet in Chennai in June of this year. Not only big players, but small and medium scale industries in Tamil Nadu will also be invited to look for business opportunities or tie-ups in Sri Lanka, Venkateshwaran said.

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