Sri Lankan Minister of Industry and Commerce Rishad Bathiudeen today re-emphasized that there was no shortage of rice in the country with over 400,000 MT rice volumes available in the retail market currently against the monthly consumption of 200,000 MT. The shortage of rice which existed earlier is no more as the imports have now been transported to retail and wholesale outlets and the new maximum retail prices of rice were gazetted yesterday. The Minister further explained that the recently reported rice shortage was purposely created by an unscrupulous play within the system by some parties and therefore it became necessary to gazette the control prices. Minister Bathiudeen also asked not to blame the local rice millers for the crisis. The Cabinet of Ministers recently approved to import 250,000 metric tons of rice to deal with this fake shortage and 86,000 metric tons out of that has already been imported. The tax on imported rice was also reduced to facilitate the consumers. “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,” the Minister alleged. “More imports are arriving but still, consumers are requested to call our hotline 1977 to complain any errant rice sales anywhere in Sri Lanka. 250 officers of Consumer Affairs Authority (CAA) are monitoring the shops across the country,” he assured.
Speaking at a gathering in Dompe, addressing fishermen, farmers, businessmen and government officials in the area, Minister Bathiudeen warned that sellers and importers who do not release rice to the consumers or who sell at higher prices are liable. They must display price lists and imported rice cannot be sold as local rice, he said adding that two teams from CAA are specially working on checking up on such condemnable manipulations. He said that CAA has conducted over 3000 raids since January and cases have been filed on 1200 identified violations from these raids. “We also informed the importers to furnish all details of their imports, including purchase costs and arrival dates of rice at Sri Lankan ports. According to the latest gazette issued on 17th February, the Maximum Retail Price (MRP) of one kilo of imported Nadu is Rs.72, imported Kekulu is Rs.70, and imported Samba is Rs.80. Meanwhile, local Nadu is priced at Rs.80, local Kekulu is Rs.78, and local Samba is Rs.90.
Speaking further he said; “Although statistics may show that there is sufficient production within the country, the millers tend to hoard stocks. They are now converting those stocks into rice. A larger portion of the paddy is usually bought by private millers and the Paddy Marketing Board buys only a relatively smaller portion. Their practice is to keep the stocks for a longer term as their motive is profit. And once the demand is created they can easily increase the prices according to supply and demand principles. Hence, we have said very strongly that enough quantities are available within the country but the government needs to intervene and ensure that private millers are not allowed to control rice prices in the country.” The President has also instructed to maintain a buffer stock of 100, 000 metric tons of rice to use in case of a shortage, minister Bathiudeen further added.