Sri Lanka taxpayers buy Rs.260.5mn in paddy at guaranteed price

Paddy farmers are protected in Sri Lanka and provided free inputs including water and fertilizer. Source: FAO Photo.

ECONOMYNEXT- The Sri Lankan taxpayer has bought 260.5 million rupees in paddy at a guaranteed price from farmers since January 29 with the involvement of the military, a minister said.

“So far, we have spent 260.5 million rupees and we have purchased a total of 5,217 metric tons of paddy,” Information and Communication Technology State Minister Lakshman Yapa Abeywardena told reporters in Colombo on Tuesday.

This is 0.2 percent of the 2.7 million metric ton Maha season paddy harvest expected by the Agriculture Department.

Abeywardena said there is currently no limit to how much of paddy the government will buy from farmers under a program carried out by the Paddy Marketing Board and the army.

In January, the government offered subsidized loans to private millers to buy a kilogramme of paddy at a minimum price of 50 rupees if moisture levels are satisfactory, or at 45 rupees if moisture is too high.

Abeywardena on Tuesday said millers were adhering to the minimum price, with some buying at as high as 56 rupees a kilogramme.

The government purchased the highest paddy hauls from Ampara, Mannar, Mullativu, where higher extents of previously abandoned land have been re-cultivated with the assistance of the military, the minister said.

“We have started cultivating the paddy fields in Wanni. This is the first time those fields are being cultivated after the civil war,” he said.

“From this week, we will start buying rice in Polonnaruwa district.”

He claimed until this year, the farmers had not benefited from the minimum guaranteed price as it had been flouted in the past.

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Earlier, ‘nadu’ rice had a minimum farmgate price of 38 rupees while ‘samba’ rice was bought at 42 rupees and ‘keeri samba’ at 51 rupees under price controls.

Abeywardena meanwhile said the government would also intervene in the rice market, selling a kilogramme at less than 100 rupees to consumers.

Import of rice is prohibited in Sri Lanka. Rice could be bought around 30 percent cheaper if imports are allowed the Institute of Policy Studies, a think tank, said. (Colombo/ Feb 18/2020)

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