An import ban in cash-strapped Sri Lanka is leaving a bad taste in the mouths of its curry lovers, depriving them of vital turmeric supplies and encouraging budding smugglers to take their chances with the spice. With no foreign cash coming in as Covid-19 cripples the tourism industry, the government in March imposed a ban on many imports to stop money leaving the country, so that it can pay $4.5 billion this year to service its international debt. Cars, floor tiles and machinery parts are among the items prohibited but it is a ban on turmeric that has the Indian Ocean island simmering with anger. The aromatic root is a vital ingredient in curries and other local cuisine and also increasingly sought after as a health supplement. But only a fifth of the 7,500 tonnes Sri Lanka consumes every year is produced locally. Since the pandemic, demand has increased so much that prices have shot up 20-fold to an eye-watering 9,000 rupees ($48) a kilogramme — a week’s wages for many Sri Lankan workers. “Our home-cooked curries are not the same since the pandemic,” said health worker Prarthana Weerasinghe, who claimed that many market varieties were now “adulterated”.