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Tuesday May 28th, 2024

Sri Lanka President plants turmeric in garden in import substitution drive

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka’s President Gotabaya Rajapaksa has planted a turmeric plant in his garden as part of efforts to grow five plants in 1.5 million households as part of an import substitution drive.

“This programme was launched in an attempt to meet the household Turmeric requirement of the people in their own backyard,” President’s office said in a statement.

“It has been decided to distribute five Turmeric plants per each family for a total of 1.5 million households through the project.

“To symbolize the launch of the programme, the President planted a turmeric sapling in his home garden at Mirihana.”

President Rajapaksa was accompanied by Trade Minister Bandula Gunewardene, Plantations Industries and Export Agriculture Minister Ramesh Pathirana.

Sri Lanka has banned turmeric imports, which was mainly imported from India, driving its price up to unusual levels promoting smuggling as well as domestic cultivation.

The state will make available ‘Grade-A t’urmeric plants would available for the public through the Agriculture Project Officers at Agrarian Service Centers, the statement said.

Sri Lanka has controlled the import of a large number of products and banned others outright in a bid to save foreign exchange as unprecedented money printing triggered forex losses and record balance of payments deficits.

Though promoters initially said prices will fall and shortages will end in six month, the spice remains expensive.

At Spar Supermarket a 100g pack of turmeric powder is offered online at 750 rupees (7,500 rupees a kilogram) and at Kapruka, an online portal at 490 rupees (4,900 rupees a kilogram).

The prices may encourage persons living in apartments in the city to also uproot any flower pots and grow turmeric with piped water.

You tube self-help videos are available on how to make turmeric powder.

To make turmeric powder turmeric tubers have to be boiled or steamed for and then dried in the sun for about four days until they are brittle. Slicing the boiled tubers may speed up the drying process.

The primary tuber (mother tuber) and daughter rhizomes (fingers) have to be boiled seperates for best results. The skin has to be removed (polished) before grinding for the best colour.

Apartment dwellers could dry in the oven at low heat setting, according to self-help videos. After drying the chips have to be ground and sieved.

Unprocessed fresh turmeric which is not dried properly may develop aflatoxin.

In India turmeric is processed in an industrial scale through pressure steaming and processing plants. The division of labour and specialization boosts labour productivity, lowers retail prices, raises living standards of consumers and makes the product export competitive.

Sri Lanka is also planning to ban the import of fertilizer and agro chemicals to save foreign exchange and promote healthy foods. The state is planning to use a fertilizer subsidy to compensate farmers for any crop losses.

Green gram and palm oil imports has already been banned. Meanwhile other analysts have called for controls on the central bank to prevent it from printing money and creating monetary instability. (Colombo/May01/2021)

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Sri Lanka president’s UNP proposes postponing elections by two years

The UNP party headquarters in Pitakotte/EconomyNext

ECONOMYNEXT — Sri Lanka’s United National Party (UNP) has called for a referendum to postpone both presidential and parliamentary elections by two years to extend President Ranil Wickremesinghe’s term to continue ongoing economic reforms.

UNP general secretary Palitha Range Bandara called on the main opposition Samagi Jana Balawegaya (SJB) and the leftist opposition formation National People’s Power (NPP) to support the move.

At a press conference on Tuesday May 28, Bandara said postponing the two elections would not be undemocratic as it would be the result of elected representatives in parliament passing a motion, followed by a referendum.

Defending the proposal, he recalled the controversial decision by then Prime Minister Sirimavo Bandaranaike to postpone elections in the 1970s, which resulted in the decimation of her Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP)-led alliance.

Bandara said that all parties must understand that now is not the time for elections as the economy has yet to emerge from bankruptcy and that President Wickremesinghe must be permitted to carry out his reforms which have already brought stability.

The UNP’s latest statement is a far cry from its pronouncements as recently as last weekend that the presidential election would definitely be held between September 17 and October 18 this year, followed by the parliamentary elections in early 2025.

UNP spokesmen also boasted that Wickremesinghe would not only contest the presidential poll but would also win it.

Tourism and Sports Minister Harin Fernando told reporters that Wickremesinghe would definitely contest the election, in response to some speculation that the president may opt to sit out.

“I think President Wickremesinghewill himself reveal his plans next week or one of these days,” said Fernando.

“He will definitely contest. I said he would for sure. Not only will he contest, he will also win,” he added.

Labour Minister Manusha Nanayakkara concurred.

“President Wickremesinghe will definitely win the election,” he said, adding that the president has provided much relief and that the economy continues to recover having fallen to its lowest point. (Colombo/May28/2024)

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Sri Lanka reforms have started to yield positive outcomes: State minister

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka’s State Minister of Finance Shehan Semasinghe says reforms have lead to positive incomes, including an increase in reserves.

“The reforms have started to yield positive outcomes, reflecting significant progress in multiple areas. Sri Lanka’s gross official reserves have seen a significant increase, reaching USD 5.5 billion by the end of April 2024,” Semasinghe said on social media platform X (twitter).

“Additionally, the Sri Lankan rupee has appreciated by approximately 8 % against the US dollar so far in 2024. This will boosts investor confidence and enhances the country’s ability to manage external shocks and meet international obligations and enhance confidence on the economy.

“The appreciation of the rupee can help lower inflation and reduce the overall cost of living and make it easier for the government and businesses to service foreign debt, thereby improving our financial reputation globally. Further, will improve the trade balance by potentially reducing the trade deficit.”

Sri Lanka’s inflation was 1.5 percent in the 12-months to April 2024, measured by the widely watched Colombo Consumer Price Index, data from the state debt office showed.

The CCPI Index fell 0.8 percent, to 195.2 points in the month of April after falling 1.9 percent in March.

Sri Lanka’s central bank has been operating largely deflationary policy, since September 2022, except perhaps in December 2023, and also allowed the rupee to appreciate in the balance of payments surplus it created.(Colombo/May28/2024)

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Sri Lanka risks foreign retaliation over VFS visa deal

ECONOMYNEXT – The Maldives could take reciprocal action after Sri Lanka’s new system of outsourcing its visas, which requires the payment of “processing” and “convenience” charges of 26 dollars, even though the government does not collect any fees.

Maldivian authorities have reminded Sri Lanka of the long-standing bilateral agreement under which their citizens could travel freely between the two neighbours without any charges or bureaucratic barriers.

A one month stay is available without a fee.

Maldivians, who consider Sri Lanka their second home, often spend more than a month in the larger country, but are now required to pay 26 dollars to VFS Global, which has controversially been contracted to handle Sri Lankan visas.

“The Sri Lankan government will not charge a fee, but Maldivians still have to pay VFS after applying online for a visa,” a Maldivian government official said in the capital, Male. “This violates the spirit of our agreement.”

He said the new administration of President Mohamed Muizzu was taking up the issue with Sri Lankan authorities in both Male and Colombo.

In a worst-case scenario, the Maldives will be compelled to reciprocate the new cost of a Sri Lankan visa and charge Sri Lankans traveling to the archipelago. There are also expat Sri Lankans in the Maldives.

There are only a handful of countries to which Sri Lankan passport holders can travel without any visa restrictions.

Singapore is another country which could take action against Sri Lanka if the bilateral deal is found to be violated, according a source said.

Opposition parties have said in parliament that outsourcing the visa handling to VFS Global and their partners was a bigger corruption scandal than the bond scam of 2015 and 2016, when billions of rupees were stolen through insider deals. (COLOMBO/May 28, 2024)

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