By Shabiya Ali Ahlam
The already mismanaged supply of maize, which is used to produce poultry feed, is set to go from bad to worse with the needless intervention of the country’s Agriculture Ministry for reasons best known to them.
While a methodical intervention would have been welcomed by the country’s feed millers, keeping vital information regarding the supply is frowned upon by the industry.
With Sri Lanka having an annual maize requirement of 450, 000 metric tonnes (MT) for poultry feed production, necessitating an importation of at least 200,000 to 250,000 MT per annum, the Agriculture Ministry is said to have already taken steps to import the shortage and distribute it at a price well above the market average.
The decision is said to have been taken without any industry consultation.
The practice so far has been for individual feed millers to import the required shortage, after local purchase, via a quarterly permit obtained from the Finance Ministry.
This year however, the Agriculture Ministry is said to have blocked the permits and gone ahead with placing an order for 50,000 MT of maize.
The industry players engaged in poultry feed production over the years have been importing maize at an average price of Rs.47, 500 per MT, which includes the commodity levy of Rs.10 per kilo.
However, it is learnt that the ministry has demanded feed millers to purchase 1 MT of maize at Rs. 50, 500. Initially, the players were asked to purchase at the rate of Rs. 52, 500 per MT.
The 50,000 MT of maize is said to have arrived in Sri Lanka this week and the millers had been instructed to deposit the money for the number of tonnes required to a bank account even before the shipment arrived.
The shipment is imported under the National Food Promotion Board (NFPB), an institution under the Agriculture Ministry that has only one supplier registered according to industry sources.
When Mirror Business contacted the Agriculture Ministry, the Development Division confirmed a shipment was due and stressed the ministry intervention was to ensure high quality of corn entered the feed manufacturing chain.
However, the division said it was not well informed to comment on the pricing. Attempts to contact NFPB Chairman Dhammika Pieris proved fruitless.
Reliable sources said the maize stock was imported from Malaysia, which itself imported from South America to address local demand.
Noteworthy is that maize harvested in South America is genetically modified, for which Sri Lanka imposed a ban in 2001.
According to an Extra-Ordinary Gazette to Food Act No. 26 of 1980 passed in 2006, all importers have to make a declaration stating whether their consignment contained any GMOs.