Minister of Industry and Commerce Rishad Bathiudeen today reiterating that there was no shortage of rice in the country said that a rice volume of 400,000 metric tons (MT) is available in the retail market at present.
Addressing media today (20th Feb.) at the Department of Government Information, the Minister said that the recently reported rice shortage was purposely created by an unscrupulous play within the system by some parties and it was the reason to gazette the control prices.
Minister Bathiudeen also asked not lay blame on the local rice millers for the crisis.
Explaining the presently developing scenario, Minister Bathiudeen said the country needs 200,000 MT of rice monthly and almost 400,000 MT rice volume is available in the retail market system currently. 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.
Minister Bathiudeen stressed 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 Consumer Affairs Authority (CAA) are specially working on checking up on such switching manipulation.
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. We should not be continuously blaming the local millers alone and should not make them to be solely responsible for this crisis. It is the opportunistic traders and certain others who are behind this crisis due to their exploiting nature,” he continued.
The Minister said the country’s rice buffer stock level is 100,000 MT and if necessary, the government is ready to import new buffer stocks but is yet to decide from which country to import.
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.