Minister Bathiudeen (centre) addresses the special press conference joined by the Secretary of Ministry of Industry and Commerce Ranjan Asoka (right) and Chairman of Lanka Sathosa TMKB Tennakoon (left)
Sri Lanka has confirmed the purchase of 500000 metric tons of rice from four global suppliers to face pressure from its domestic markets distressed by paddy shortfall for three straight seasons.
Shipments from one country are already being offloaded at Colombo Port. Sri Lanka is also returning back to its scrapped rice MRPs in the next two weeks.
“As a result of these purchases, we have overcome any rice shortages and prices are back to low levels,” said Minister of industry and Commerce Rishad Bathiudeen, addressing a special press conference on rice supplies and other essential product prices at his ministry.
“The aim of the Cost of Living Committee (CoLC) of the government is to support our consumers with lowest prices. As a result of shortfall in the local paddy production for three seasons, we experienced rice shortages and higher prices in the local market,” said Minister Bathiudeen, and added: “Based on estimates of rice supply shortages in the coming months, CoLC ordered 500,000 MT rice to be imported from abroad. As a result my officials at the Ministry of Industry and Commerce ordered rice 500,000 MT rice from Myanmar, Pakistan, Thailand and India. The 100,000 MT “raw rice” (Nadu) ordered from India has already started arriving; 8890 MT of it is now being offloaded at Colombo Port. This is a government to foreign private sector order.
“The rest –the 400,000 MT from other three countries are government-to-government purchases and includes other varieties of rice as well. As a result of these purchases, we have overcome any rice shortages and prices are back to low levels. The Cooperative Wholesale Establishment (CWE) under my Ministry is receiving these government imported rice stocks and releases them to Lanka Sathosa under this Ministry to be sold at low prices to the consumers.
I am pleased to say that today Lanka Sathosa has the lowest rice prices in the market compared to other local supermarkets. White raw (sudu kekulu) at Rs 65 per kilo, white raw samba Rs 90, samba Rs 84, and Nadu Rs 74.
“Recently we removed the maximum retail prices imposed on rice due to requests from private sector to stabilise market prices and to stop mixing of local and imported rice but the MRP removal was not successful. Therefore we are planning to bring back max retail prices, perhaps as early as the end of this month.
“Lanka Sathosa has also very low prices on other essential items-white sugar Rs 107, red lentils Rs 152, spratts Rs 99, B onions Rs 134, potatoes Rs 125, and gram 425 salmon at Rs 129, and coconuts at 65. Lanka Sathosa is also planning to give special discounted promotions to 500 products in the coming season. There will be many brand promotions too. We will be opening 50 new branches in the next two months. We are also in discussions with the Ministry of Public Administration and Home Affairs to open mini-sized Lanka Sathosas in conjunction with their 332 Divisional Secretariats (Pradeshiya Lekam offices) so that the Lanka Sathosa network becomes even more accessible.” As a support measure to private sector importers, the Consumer Affairs Authority under Minister Bathiudeen temporarily removed all MRPs imposed on rice in August 2017 (Order no 45, Gazette No 2032/25), to which the Minister shall revert to, likely with new and lower rice prices.