Urgent measures are being taken to import 5,000 tons of rice from three South Asian countries to avoid a shortage and keep prices under check during the festive season, a senior official said.
Commerce Ministry Secretary T. M. K. B. Tennekoon said quotations would be sought from India, Pakistan and Bangladesh in the coming days.
The decision to import rice was taken by the Cost of Living Committee (CoL) on Friday in view of the possibility of serious shortages and rising prices.
Headed by Development Strategies and International Trade Minister Malik Samarawickrema, the committee includes Ministers Ravi Karunanayake, P. Harison, W.D.J. Senevirathne, Akila Viraj Kariyawasam and Rishard Bathiudeen.
In addition, the committee also decided to buy paddy from the Paddy Marketing Board (PMB) which has a stock of around 200,000 tons.
“After securing Cabinet consent on this, we will buy from the board, mill the paddy and sell the rice through Lanka Sathosa outlets,” the secretary said.
PMB Chairman M.B. Dissanayake said the Cabinet had instructed it to reject offers from the private sector and the keep its stocks of paddy for sale though state outlets.
According to the latest market report compiled by the Hector Kobbekaduwa Agrarian Research and Training Institute which studies price changes of commodities in the local market, the prices of Nadu and raw white rice have increased significantly. Imported Ponni samba stocks were not available in the market during this week. Prices of all the local rice varieties are expected to increase further during the next week, it said.
“In retail trade, the prices have increased by Rs. 5 a kilo for raw white, by Rs.3 a kilo for both raw red and Nadu. The highest local rice price of Rs. 105 a kilo was reported for samba, the HKARTI said. It said prices of all the other local varieties had increased by 11-14 percent.
Mr. Tennekoon said it was a normal feature for prices of rice varieties to go up during the festive season as private mill owners and traders were known to stock a large amount of rice to create an artificial shortage and raise prices. The Government hoped to overcome this by selling the imported rice at lower prices.