The Essential Food Commodities’ Importers and Traders Association today said it has decided to increase the prices of a number of essential food items this week due to the work-to-rule campaign by the Customs.
The Associations’ Media Spokesperson Hemaka Fernando said the strike had resulted in a backlog of containers consisting of imported essential food items at the Colombo harbour.
He said the importers had to pay demurrage of US$ 36 per day for one 40-foot container and US$ 20 for 20-foot container until the containers are released.
“In addition to these charges, we have to pay Rs.850,000 for one container of potatoes because of the increased import tax on potatoes which came into effect from last Friday. In this crisis situation, we have decided to increase the prices of food items during this week,” he said.
Accordingly, prices of imported rice, sugar, dhal, potatoes, onions and green grams would go up.
When contacted, Chairman of the Customs Superintendents Union Uditha Jayasinghe said they have to charge the increased tax amount from the containers which arrived at the port even before the date when the tax was increased.
He said the number of containers which are being released from the port had been reduced to 200 per day due to the Customs work-to-rule campaign. “This could only intensify this week,” he said.
Earlier, it was reported that trade unions outside the Customs including the Essential Food Commodities’ Importers and Traders Association had backed the Customs work-to-rule campaign.
However, the Association rejected these reports and said it had even rejected an invitation extended by the Customs trade unions for a meeting.
Mr. Fernando said that they are not concerned about the issue of Customs Director General, but the cause of the strike. “This is an issue of the Customs. Not ours. We are simply affected by their work-to-rule campaign,” he said. (Indika Sri Aravinda)