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Wednesday June 29th, 2022

Sri Lanka to import 100,000 tonnes of ‘healthy’, non-organic rice, as prices soar

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka will import 100,000 tonnes of rice which would be healthy but not necessarily organic a minister said as domestic farmers were banned from using chemical fertilizer and insecticides and domestic rice prices soared amid import controls.

Sri Lanka’s cabinet of ministers had cleared the import 100,000 metric tonnes of rice, Consumer Minister Lasantha Alagiyawanna said.

Alagiyawanna said the rice would be distributed to Lanka Sathosa and co-operatives.

Helped by the import ban, and a global rise in commodity prices driven by the so-called Powell Bubble of the US Fed, domestic rice millers and collectors some of whom have market power due to their size have also jacked up prices. Wheat prices are also up.

Rice imports were controlled to keep prices up and help farmers but now consumers are helpless (asarana wela) he said.

Compounding monetary woes, Sri Lanka had also banned agro-chemicals as money printing by the central bank to control interest rates triggered forex shortages.

Sri Lanka’s Government Medical Officers Association, an influential policy driver in the island has said according to Pliny the elder, a Roman writer, ancient inhabitants had lived for 140 year when there were no agro chemicals.

“There is a food controller from the health ministry when we import any foods,” Minister Alagiyawanna said responding to queries whether the imported rice would be organic.

“A food controller office also is in the port. So all foods before entering the country will be tested under the guidance of the food controller. Only healthy rice will be brought.”

Critics have said policy should not be made on the claims of Pliny the Elder (Gaius Plinius Secundus) as he had made several other claims about Sri Lanka in his encyclopedia which are also doubtful including about the size of the island.

Critics of the fertilizer ban has said farming is supposed to be done under a globally accepted system which specifying safe levels of chemical residues which are updated from time to time and the sudden ban is creating an economic crisis.

Sri Lanka’s tea farmers are saying crops will fall sharply as time goes on due to the lack of specific chemical fertilizers, which are needed at specific times of the growth cycle and other sectors have also expressed similar fears.

Farmers have also been protesting the lack of chemical fertilizer. A decision has been made to import organic fertilizer from China, which had led to another controversy after the discovery of bacterial pests in a sample. (Colombo/Sept28/2021)

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