Sri Lanka blames traders for rice shortage
ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka’s Ministry of Industry and Commerce has blamed “opportunistic traders” for a shortage of rice after drought drastically reduced crops and local millers protested against selling at government controlled prices.
The island needs 200,000 tonnes of rice monthly and the government’s Hector Kobbekaduwa Agrarian Research and Training Institute had found 400,000 MT of rice were available in the retail market system, a statement said.
Minister of Industry and Commerce Rishad Bathiudeen said that in addition, 86,000 tonnes of rice have been imported.
“We even reduced rice import tax from Rs75 to Rs5,” he said. “Therefore there is really no shortages and the crisis is over. Still, there are supply issues in the market. This is due to some form of planned manipulation of rice market by certain interested parties.”
To overcome the problem the government introduced Maximum Retail Prices (MRPs) for both imported and locally milled rice, with the former priced lower.
The government is also ready to order more imports to build a buffer stock, Bathiudeen said.
“It is the opportunistic traders and certain others who are behind this crisis,” he said. “We are ready to import new buffer stocks if necessary.”
The statement said the Consumer Affairs Authority had conducted more than 3000 raids since January 2017 and filed cases on 1200 identified violations where traders did not sell at controlled prices.
(COLOMBO, Feb 20, 2017)