Government collusion with “Rice Oligopoly” caused prices to rise – Harsha

The government is saying that the major Rice millers of the country have agreed to provide the essential commodity at lower rates for the festive season.

In a Press Release issued by the Ministry of Finance this evening, the government said that the millers had promised to provide a kilo of Nadu rice for Rs. 98 and Samba for Rs. 99.

This was after the millers held a meeting with the government representatives at the Presidential Secretariat this afternoon Dec 10.

Around ten days ago retail prices rose sharply with the cheapest rice selling in the weekly markets at over Rs. 105 per kilogram, almost as soon as the new administration took office.

Dr Harsha de Silva, the former minister for Public Distribution, says that prices have gone up because the “oligopoly ”of the big millers have had a hand in it.

He said in the last year of his government they successfully created a network of Small and Medium sized millers who offered rice at Rs 80 to 85 a kilo “which broke the hold the big millers had.” They had a joint brand for their ice called Shakthi, he said.

De Silva said the big millers buy rice from the farmers as well as the Paddy Marketing Board and “hoard huge stocks in their silos and release it at their will to keep prices high.”

These people, he alleged, had convinced the incoming government to change the system and that is why overnight the prices had risen so steeply.

De Silva also predicts that if the new government does not act wisely Samba will go up to Rs 140 a kilo in a few months.

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